Angel Ocasio-Reyes decided one day to dress up as a Marine, display medals and awards he never earned, and parade himself around local military establishments. Worse, Ocasio did not serve one day in the military. The most egregious of Ocasio’s violations was wearing the Navy Cross, America’s second highest military honor.
Ocasio was charged with 3 federal misdemeanors under the Stolen Valor Act. Last week he was sentenced to 3 years probation and 120 days of community service at a veteran’s organization.
Contrary to his claims of admiring the military and not wanting to hurt anyone, Ocasio’s actions marred the tens of thousands of soldiers who have earned their medals of valor through their deeds. His actions are much more offensive to those family members of soldiers who were awarded their medals of valor posthumously. His disgraceful, shameful, and dishonorable actions demonstrated anything but admiration and concern.
This was also a planned series of events; not a spur-of-the-moment thought. Ocasio bought the uniform in an Army-Navy surplus store in New York and paid a friend for his DD-214. Ocasio altered the DD-214 and awarded himself a plethora of medals and decorations; including the Navy Cross. Once his fraud was complete, Ocasio visited American Legion Halls in Riverview and Seminole and attempted to meld into the local military culture.
Not a person in the courtroom was swayed by the defendant’s apologies. Since 1919 there have only been a couple of thousand Marines awarded the Navy Cross-it is not an easy standard to meet and is only issued to those soldiers demonstrating extraordinary heroism. Most, if not all, current and former service members likely believe impersonating those men who have earned that medal is one of the most despicable crimes a person can commit.
Presiding U.S. Magistrate Mark Pizzo did not feel Ocasio’s actions warranted time in jail despite the sentencing guidelines allowing for the imposition of 0 – 6 months. While Ocasio’s sentence will end someday, his affront towards all veterans will never fade.