Falsifying a military record in Texas will soon carry a heavier penalty, thanks to a new bill signed into law by the governor last week.
Senate Bill 835 increases the penalty for presenting a fraudulent or fictitious military record from a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a $500 fine, to a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill May 12, and it’s set to go into effect Sept. 1.
“When I heard news stories of individuals claiming fictitious military records, I immediately got to work with fellow veterans in our community to address this issue,” said state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, who introduced the bill.
Taylor, a former Marine, is a veteran of Iraq, where he fought with 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company.
“The sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform are beyond measure,” he said.
The state law is similar to the national Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which makes it a federal crime “for an individual to fraudulently hold oneself out to be a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit,” according to the White House.
It has a punishment of up to a year in jail and up to a $100,000 fine per charge.
Area veterans said they were glad to hear of the beefed-up penalty in Texas.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Killeen resident Randy Brumagim, commander of Killeen’s chapter of Disabled American Veterans. “Anyone that would dare to say that they have been in a combat zone, or been in the military, and haven’t, deserves every bit of that penalty. In fact, in addition to the 180 days in jail, they ought to do probably 120 days of public service on a military installation or in a military environment.”
Nolanville resident Earl Williams, a former commander of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said veterans organizations don’t turn a blind eye to anyone who may falsify a military record.
“We take it very seriously,” said Williams, who retired from the Army as a command sergeant major in 1995. A Purple Heart recipient, Williams was wounded during the Vietnam War when a helicopter he was in was shot down.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart promotes patriotism and helps veterans, especially those wounded in combat, get the benefits they’ve earned, Williams said.
“If you earned it, we’re going to recognize you,” Williams said. “If you haven’t, we’re going to expose you.”
It’s rare that military fakers surface in the Killeen-Fort Hood area, Williams said; however, if his group comes across such cases, they contact law enforcement.