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editorial

When it comes to military service, words matter

As a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, Scott Brown spent two weeks in Afghanistan in 2011 as part of his voluntary guard training. That time may have given him a better sense of the war effort, but he did not face the Taliban. So he was wrong to state, in last week’s debate against challenger Elizabeth Warren, that he “served in Afghanistan.” It might have been excused as a slip of the tongue, except that Brown himself has sought to make it a crime to exaggerate claims of military service.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled against the 2006 Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about military awards or service. The court said the act was too broadly written, and infinged on free-speech rights. At the same time, the justices suggested that a more carefully crafted statute would pass constitutional muster. So Brown introduced, last month, a law that would penalize the “faux-fighter” who lies to “obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.” The purpose is to protect those who have sacrificed, and penalize those who would use war to buttress their resumes.

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