It's not illegal to buy and sell military medals. It is illegal to profit from false claims.
ATLANTA -- Is it easy to fake having military merit? We discovered getting your hands on the medals is simple - earning them is not.
We were able to easily purchase a Purple Heart at a local Army and Navy store. It was being sold along with a wall of other medals and military decorations. Hodge Army & Navy told us the medals they sell are manufactured and bought in bulk from wholesalers.
We now own a Purple Heart because the Pentagon and the Army tell us there is nothing prohibiting the sale of the medals. That's right, there is no law against civilians buying or selling medals of valor, as long as you don't use them to gain any financial advantage.
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"It's a travesty that someone can go to a store, buy something like this and pin it on them," exclaimed Doug Middleton, Commander of the Georgia's Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Last week a former Holly Springs police officer, Shane Ladner, was arrested and accused of lying about having a Purple Heart to get free license plates from the state.
Ladner's attorney maintains his client's innocence and says their investigation will show he had a Purple Heart and that many people will owe him an apology.
He never showed 11Alive his Purple Heart and we are not suggesting he bought one. However, it made us wonder how you could fake having one.
"The easiest the way to prove you earned it is to show the documentation," Middleton told us.
Middleton showed us the signed military order listing his name as a Purple Heart recipient and the telegram that his wife received when he was injured in Vietnam. Without the order the medal holds no merit.
Ladner showed 11Alive his Army exit form called a DD214 that lists one Purple Heart. However, when we checked with the Army and the National Archives, we were told they have no record of the DD214 that is in his possession.
Cherokee County's District Attorney asked the Sheriff's Office to investigate after receiving complaints about Ladner's claim to having a Purple Heart. They were unable to verify the record with the military and Ladner never did show us the order that he said he had when he received the medal.
As for what we discovered about the sale of military medals? Middleton replied, "Yeah there ought to be some law to stop that."