By Brett Gillin
Stolen valor isn’t exclusive to the United States, nor is the accusation of impersonating a soldier always met with heightened emotions. This incident took place in Robina, Australia last month. A man dressed as an Australian Defence Force commando was spotted in a fast-food restaurant purchasing food. Unfortunately for him, the man who spotted him happened to be a police officer, who had spent plenty of time in the military.
It’s easy enough to predict what first raised the red flags for Senior Sergeant Stewart Reid of the Royal Australian Police and his partner. The man wearing the military gear was not wearing it properly. As you can hear in the video, Sen-Sgt. Reid calmly explains to the man that not only are his badges in the wrong position, but parts of his uniform were outdated, and the beret he was wearing was not a standard-issue military uniform.
“The officer observed he had a badge that should only be worn in night field exercises and also had another badge in an incorrect position,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin. “His beret was also the wrong color and he was wearing a commando badge that was not the current issue. He was however wearing a current Australian Defence Force shirt and pants and had the rank sleeve of private.”
Sen-Sgt. Reid’s partner, who is an Australian Defence Force reservist, waited until the man left the restaurant before confronting him. Throughout the remarkably calm inquisition, the officer heard the man tell him he was a Navy clearance diver for seven years and had been in the Army for “12 or 13 months.” When the man’s story didn’t add up, the officers calmly asked him to sit down while they looked into the matter.
It turns out that the 41-year-old man had, indeed, served in the Army. However, according to police reports, he had been discharged last July after only serving as a recruit for two months. The officers were also able to confirm that the man had never been a clearance diver with the Navy, despite his boasting of such.
Police seized the man’s uniform and charged him with impersonating a Commonwealth Officer. According to the Australian Legal Information Institute, police officers and soldiers both fall under the definition of a “Commonwealth Officer.” In Australia, the monetary penalties for stolen valor are much less severe than they are in the United States though. According to ANZMI, a watchdog group in Australia and New Zealand on the lookout for cases of stolen valor, the penalties for violations of the Defence Act, which this transgression falls under, are up to a $3,300 fine and a maximum of two years in jail. Those penalties are almost never dealt out, however, as a small fine is the most common punishment.
Had this man tried the same thing in the United States, however, things would be a bit trickier. In order to be found in violation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, the person impersonating a soldier must be doing so with “the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit from convincing someone that he or she rightfully did receive that award.” If, however, it was determined that someone was in violation of the act, he or she could face a fine of $100,000 and a year in jail.