Man makes apology for claiming Medal of Honor

Published May 28, 1997|Updated Oct. 1, 2005

Forced by a judge to issue a public apology for wearing a Medal of Honor he didn't earn, Jackie Stern's words were published in a Memorial Day ad in the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale.

"I know that my actions have cheapened the honor of those who have received this valiant award and my pitiful attempt and selfish quest for family recognition has tarnished the dignity of all the brave men and woman whom this medal was legitimately bestowed," he wrote in the apology.

There are 169 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, but more people than that are claiming to be war heroes decorated with that honor. The recent holiday threw a spotlight on the problem, which is ripe with emotion.

"We hear about it several times a year. Sometimes more than that," said Ronald Dake, executive director of the Medal of Honor Society in South Carolina. "It's fairly common."

Dake said that in the past two weeks he has received two calls checking on people claiming to be Medal of Honor recipients. Neither were.

"They are people who go around and try to con other people," Dake said. "I'm sure they do it for the profit and the glory of the moment."

One of those exposed was Stern, a retiree in suburban Bonaventure who served in the Army in the 1950s but never engaged in combat.

A judge found him guilty in December of a misdemeanor for wearing a Medal of Honor he bought at a New Jersey flea market.

Stern was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to write an apology letter to the 169 living recipients as well as the public apology.

Stern's family blame his actions on a stroke he suffered in 1985.