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Sacrifice should not be a fashion statement

On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, California resident Steven Burton was charged with “the unauthorized wearing of military medals or decorations,” according to CNN.

An FBI affidavit said Burton blogged online about his service overseas, including being part of the war in Iraq, but he was never there. Though he often wore a Marine Corps uniform, he was never in the Corps. And he never earned the Navy Cross he wore. In fact, Burton never served a day in any military branch.

Military members and veterans were outraged by his actions – as they should be. Though Burton never committed a day of service to his country, he was reaping the most important gift a veteran receives from his service: a measure of respect.

Burton’s crime is a misdemeanor and carries up to a year in jail.

The punishment is not harsh enough.

Whichever judge tries his case should consider additional, alternative sentencing. Burton should be put to work – at least some sort of community service. This would give him the punishment he deserves after trying to gain false honor.

The whole incident is a symptom of a larger issue: fashion. Too often, people casually wear articles of military clothing. Service-style combat boots, military camouflage hats and pants and other service-related items are worn for no reason other than to look stylish. This belittles symbols of sacrifice that should be treated with respect.

The recent trend of wearing flashy, designer dog tags is perhaps the worst offense. Dog tags provide vital medical information and identify those who die on the battlefield. They are a symbol of the price paid by many through service.

They are a reminder of the sacrifices made by many families.

Too many soldiers have died wearing the symbols of sacrifice, and these articles should not be taken lightly. They aren’t gimmicks. They aren’t fashion statements. They’re part of a lifestyle of sacrifice.

If people wear or use them, they should do so out of respect and in remembrance. If not, they should remember Burton, who should be punished for his actions.

James Bishop is a senior majoring in history.