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Veterans leader admits wearing brother’s medals

CLAY, N.Y. — The president of the Korean War Veterans Association admitted Wednesday that he wore combat medals belonging to his late brother to several public functions, including some with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

James Ferris, of the Syracuse suburb of Clay, said that he offered to resign as president, but that the offer was rejected.

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Ferris served as a Marine in administrative roles with an engineering battalion during the war. Among the honors he wore publicly, including in ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, were the Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon, the ­Navy Occupation Service ­Medal, and the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross.

The Syracuse Post-Standard was first to report Ferris’s admission. The concerns were first aired in April on a website run by veterans who track false claims of valor.

‘‘I shouldn’t have worn my brother’s medals,’’ Ferris said in an interview. ‘‘I made a ­mistake. I’ve admitted it. I’m extremely sorry for it.’’

At the height of the Iraq War in 2006, President George Bush signed a law making it a crime for anyone to wear military medals that they had not earned. In 2012 the Supreme Court struck it down as a violation of the First Amendment.

Congress quickly acted with a new proposal, the Stolen ­Valor Act, which would make it a crime to lie about military service or make false claims about receiving military medals with the intent of benefiting from those claims. It would specifically exempt from punishment those who simply wear military medals or decorations that do not belong to them.

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