HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Starting July 1, a new law in Alabama will punish people caught impersonating a service officer for the purposes of financial gain.
Sweat, blood and tears are what Calvin Underwood shed during his time as Navy serviceman during the Vietnam era.
"The worst part was being away from my family for an extended period of time," said the 8-year missile technician. "I am still having reunions with the guys that I served with in '61, '62."
His reunions come with good reason to celebrate. He had plenty of close calls.
"Soviet military ship started pinging on us, and that kind of sends goosebumps across your old body," Underwood recalled.
He is proud to wear his uniform. "It's a symbol of who we are and what we did," he said.
But some people are wearing the uniform pretending to be in the military. Underwood summarizes the act thusly:
"They have no respect for it and if they had any respect for it, they probably wouldn't put it on. They probably don't have respect for anything," he said.
It's called "Stolen Valor" - people dress up in order to get military discounts or benefits. Last year Anthony Anderson posted video calling out a man pretending to be in the army. Anderson's Facebook page has over 400,000 likes.
"Once the video went viral, legislators said this is really a problem, we need to take care of it," Anderson said. "So a lot of legislators, assembly men, lawmakers, reached out to us and said 'Hey, you guys, we want to push a law on our state, will you get behind us?'"
Anderson says he has helped pass five state laws that make it a criminal offense to pretend to be a servicemen for financial gain.
"With the states getting behind it, it's a lot easier to get them prosecuted, because under the federal law, there has only been one person that's ever been prosecuted under it," Anderson said.
From Wednesday, it will be a misdemeanor plus a fine for committing a stolen valor offense.
"I guess the death penalty would probably be a bit much for that," Underwood said, "but I think it should be a felony.
Being caught wearing the Congressional Medal of Honor in Alabama, for instance, is a felony - and you could go to jail.
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