On January 11, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled it was OK for people to wear unearned military medals. 

The 11-judge panel said outlawing the wearing of such war medals violates free speech. The decision undoubtedly angered veterans all over the nation, including here in the Twin Tiers. 

“My point is, if you didn’t earn it, you shouldn’t wear it,” says 20-year U.S. Army veteran and current Commander of American Legion Post 443 in Elmira.

“It’s a slap in the face to the ones that have. It’s not right to wear that, people have died to earn those declarations, and they shouldn’t be wearing them.  I don’t know if they want self-gratification or they want to be noticed in the public, but it’s not right.”

Lenox wasn’t the only veteran angered by the decision. 

“It makes me very mad,” says Bruce Newkirk, who spent 33 years in the armed forces and is a current member of the Vietnam Veterans Museum in Elmira.

“Our feeling, and there’s other guys here who feel the same way, if you didn’t earn it, you don’t wear it. You’re misrepresenting a veteran.”

Whether it’s for monetary gain or getting attention, Newkirk says it’s getting easier to get those medals as well as ribbons. 

“The thing is today, in some of these catalogs, you can buy what’s called commemorative ribbons, which are almost identical in the coloring to the original ribbons, and can they legally wear those? There’s no law saying they can’t. Do we like it? I don’t.”