stolen valor in pa

We all know stolen valor is a crime.

It’s ludicrous, hurtful and downright insulting.

It disrespects the men and women who gave their lives in the name of freedom in the uniforms of the American military. It also makes our country look stupid, just like the people who have the gall to actually attempt it.

Naturally, it’s right to call it out when you see it on the street. Or at a watering hole. Or at a convenient store. Or wherever.

But, what happens if you’re wrong?

A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania police officer (and former Marine) and a former Army soldier found out the ugly answer to that recently, when they wrongly accused an older gentleman by the name of Robert Ford — a 75-year-old American who served in the Marine Corps from 1958 to 1964 — of stolen valor.

“I was humiliated,” said Ford, of Maryville, Pennsylvania, to the Patriot-News.

The unfortunate incident all went down on Memorial Day, at Artfest, an event that gathered proud Americans from all over greater Harrisburg. It started with a tip from the former soldier who saw Ford and fingered him for a faker, then reported it to Detective John O’Connor.

This from the Patriot-News:

Ford’s hat bore some wrinkles, according to the soldier’s assessment, and his belt buckle looked too ornate for his rank.

The soldier enlisted the help of a Harrisburg police officer working at the event …

“He’s not a real Marine!” the officer shouted to the crowd gathered for the PennLive/Patriot-News Artsfest of Greater Harrisburg. “Stolen valor!”

All along? Ford was a proud veteran.

When he was discharged more than 50 years ago, he had achieved the rank of lance corporal in the USMC.

“He’s as legit as you can get,” Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and archivist from Pueblo, Colo., who is nationally recognized for detecting military fraud, told the Patriot-News.

In the aftermath of the accusation, both Ford and O’Connor’s respective boiling points were tested. Allegedly, expletives were launched by Ford after O’Connor fired a bunch of questions at him for a second time, which included where he went to boot camp and what his role was in the service. This prompted both to be brought in front of O’Connor’s supervisor (also a former Marine) to sort things out and help cooler heads prevail.

The next day, however, might’ve poured a few droplets of gasoline on the situation — if you look at it from the point of view of a one Mr. Robert Ford.

The mayor stepped in, and pulled a reverse-de Blasio, so to speak. In other words, he defended the officer’s actions.

This once again from the Patriot-News:

[Harrisburg Mayor Eric] Papenfuse said he regretted that a U.S. Army veteran accused Robert Ford, 75, of falsely claiming to be a Marine by wearing a dress blue uniform to ArtsFest in Harrisburg. But the mayor said that his officer acted “appropriately,” when the officer questioned Ford about his service.

Papenfuse said the Army veteran demanded that Detective John O’Connor investigate whether Ford was impersonating a Marine for profit, which is illegal.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Ford was wrongly accused,” Papenfuse said, according to a news release. “But our initial findings indicate police officers acted appropriately and respectfully in this incident.”

Who’s right?

Either way, Mr. Ford should be rewarded for his service. That’s for damn sure.

Because he’s the real deal.

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