Richard David McClanahan, then 29, pleaded guilty in August 2007 to bank fraud and falsely claiming a Medal of Honor. He served more than two years in prison. (File photo)
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Richard David McClanahan no longer considers himself a veteran. Convicted of embellishing his military record and claiming awards he never won, McClanahan says he doesn't attend Veterans Day parades or Memorial Day events out of shame.
Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act in 2006 to try to prevent people from fabricating stories about battle or military honors. But the Supreme Court last month overturned the law, calling it a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of the right to free speech.
Nonetheless, McClanahan, 34, says he doesn't want his criminal record cleared.
"I have no desire to have my record expunged," McClanahan http://bit.ly/Mq3Okb">told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I'm not the victim here. The law was put into place for a very good reason."
McClanahan did serve in the military. According to prosecutors, he joined the Navy in 1999 and entered the Army two years later.
But Army officials would demote him after a 2005 evaluation showed he lied repeatedly to his superiors about his achievements and his record. He was eventually discharged later that year "under other than honorable conditions" to avoid a court martial.
McClanahan returned to Amarillo, where he grew up. Prosecutors said he showed off fake letters from former President George W. Bush and then-Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that suggested he was being considered for the Medal of Honor — the highest military award.
He became a speaker at local schools and groups. His old high school gave him nearly $10,000 in scholarship money, according to authorities. And though a local dealership declined McClanahan's request for a free car, the dealership helped him get financing. McClanahan was found to have lied on the paperwork about his income.
Other veterans eventually became suspicious and contacted the FBI. McClanahan was indicted and eventually pleaded guilty to making false statements and making false claims about the receipt of medals. He would serve 30 months of a 34-month sentence.
Now, McClanahan is living in Fort Worth and working as a salesman. His former wife and two children live in Amarillo.
His lies began when he wanted to measure up to other veterans, he said. They grew as he started to get more opportunities.
"Who wants to meet a guy who was a medic and deployed to Korea and then goes to college?" he said. "Those guys are a dime a dozen. My stories weren't worth anything. I just thought, ‘What is going to set David apart?' "
The Pentagon is considering the creation of a searchable database of military honors, http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/">similar to Military Times' Hall of Valor, to prevent frauds and some members of Congress say they'll try to pass another law that meets the Supreme Court's guidance.
"I wish more people could be brought down and exposed," McClanahan told the newspaper. "I still have friends in the military. I disrespected them. I don't believe that people should be able to get away with it, and this coming from the guy who was convicted and did time for it."
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