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Florida lawmakers take aim at people who lie about military service for political or professional gain

The bills are expected to get widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans in the upcoming legislative session.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — “Stolen valor" is the term used when someone misrepresents their military experience. 

According to the FBI, for every real Navy SEAL, there are hundreds of imposters. Now, some Florida lawmakers want to crack down on those hoping to benefit off the sacrifice of others.

Bills that would make it a felony to misrepresent one’s military record in an attempt to get money or for personal or political benefit were filed in both the Florida House and Senate last week.

“You get it a lot. You wouldn’t think you would, but you do,” said Ed Hausdorf, Manager at the Pants Towne Army Navy Store in St. Petersburg.

Hausdorf said his store policy is, to buy major U.S. military medals and ribbons, customers need to prove they earned the honors.

“You get a lot of people in that want, say, Navy Seal stuff. We won’t sell that at all,” he said. “Purple Hearts, the Bronze Stars, the higher medals, they have to bring their DD214 in. They can’t come in and buy those either. Other stuff we let go out, but the heavier stuff we do not.”

“It can get worse than icky when it comes to making money off of, like people say, the real heroes, the folks who were quiet, who really were in the trenches, who really stormed that hill, we don’t want those people to be made light of by some huckster,” added Travis Horn, a U.S. Army veteran.

“I like that they put in the monetary aspect, if someone is trying to use their non-war record to make money off of the real heroes, then they’re going to pay for it,” added Horn. “When you raise your right hand and you go in the service to actually risk your life. If you lie about Microsoft Office certification, that’s one thing. But, if you lie about the notion that you traveled abroad to defend our nation, and risked your life, and jumped out of planes and stormed hills and things like that. That’s just despicable.”

The bills are expected to get widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans in the upcoming legislative session. If it passes, it’s scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2020.

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