Clearly, veterans do not take the issue of stolen valor -- or fraudulently claiming military honors one did not earn -- lightly.
So it's no wonder that outrage was sparked over an article published in The Weekender, a small northeastern Pennsylvania newspaper, after a columnist published a detailed account of lying about being a veteran to score free drinks at a bar.
The column, titled "free drinks come at a price," was written by Justin Adam Brown, who brags about tricking a Vietnam veteran into believing he had served in Iraq so he could receive free drinks.
The advice column begins as follows: "I discovered the secret to getting a few drinks without having a vagina: just say you're a veteran. Everyone wants to buy a vet a free drink."
According to the Times-Tribune newspaper, Brown wrote that he accepted drinks from an unnamed veteran after telling him, "I fought in Iraq." He joked about how his friend also sold a camouflage shirt to the veteran for $100, falsely claiming he got the shirt from President George W. Bush. The shirt was purchased at Macy's, according to Brown.
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The column immediately sparked outrage among members of the community, including veterans who accused the writer of "stolen valor," which was actually made illegal by Congress in 2013.
According to Fox, the column was eventually pulled from the newspaper's website after John Dawe, local activist and president of Dawe Consulting, filed a Change.org petition, demanding an apology from Brown, editor Sarah Hasse, and Times Leader Publisher Doug Olsson.
On Dec. 27, Brown and his editor, Sarah Haase, issued separate apologies on The Weekender's website.
"In this case, the apologies written by the writer and editor are definitely not enough," Mr. Olsson wrote Tuesday.
"My apology is not enough. We must and will do better. I'm taking three immediate steps to ensure we work to never repeat such an incident: I'm calling for an immediate review of the tone and mission of Weekender. Every story we choose to publish, starting right now, will be reviewed by two editors, not one. No exceptions. [And] We will conduct training for the Weekender staff on issues that go beyond humor and satire, and fall into the realm of poor taste."
Haase took responsibility for allowing the column to go to print, saying "The piece, which former columnist Justin Adam Brown wrote, does not reflect my personal values or morals. I do not condone Justin's behavior, however, I was the editor who made the difficult decision to print his column under the belief that Justin had a right to say the things he said."
In his apology, Brown claimed that he never even intended for anyone to believe he was a veteran.
"An intoxicated patron at the bar solicited us, and even though we told him we weren't veterans, we ultimately played along after being harassed and feeling uncomfortable," he explained. "I have an unwavering gratitude and admiration for veterans. I have friends, acquaintances, and family members who have fought and died for our country. I even officiated a same-sex military wedding. To our veterans, and to anyone else I offended, I apologize."
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