Both express strong support for Senate Bill 886
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
WEST GOSHEN — One word came to the forefront in a discussion about proposed legislation to prevent misrepresentation and claims of military awards: integrity.
Another word might have been subtext, though: bipartisanship.
State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-19) and Dominic Pileggi (R-9), Thursday, offered strong support for state Senate Bill 886, which would publish the names of all of Pennsylvania’s Medal of Honor award winners — and potentially all military awards granted to those from the commonwealth as a measure to battle those who would falsely claim such awards.
Dinniman and Pileggi, along with Medal of Honor winner Marine Corps Lt. Gen. (Ret.) James E. Livingston and family and friends of other local Medal of Honor winners gathered Thursday at the Butler-O’Connor-McCormick Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 106 to explain the need for the legislation.
The two senators — who because of redistricting are swapping some Chester County municipalities as of next January — are co-sponsors of the bill and noted that Thursday’s joint appearance was the start of a year-long, jointly planned process to transition to the new districts to make sure no issues or constituents fall through the cracks during 2014.
Whatever partisan issues there are, Dinniman said, it is good for legislators of both parties to be able to stand together and move beyond partisanship when the issue is clear — as both senators said was the case.
“When it comes to the important issues, it is important that we can work together,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman, who worked with a number of local veteran’s groups to preserve and rehabilitate the Medal of Honor Grove in Schuykill Township, said it was Livingston who came to him asking for legislation, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal legislation making it a crime to falsely claim to be a Medal of Honor winner, saying it violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Subsequently, Congress passed a law making it illegal to profit from such false claims, which, so-far has not been challenged in the courts.
SB886 would establish a database of the winners of the Medal of Honor since the Civil War — when it was established — from the commonwealth, making it easy to prove or disprove claims of winning the award. Dinniman said the long-term plan would be for the database to ultimately include all military honors for those from the state.
Relatives of local Medal of Honor winners had some strong opinions about the bill and larger cultural issues — a generation or more of people who largely don’t understand the sacrifice of serving, some of whom see it as little more than a video game.
Joe Crescenz of Downingtown, brother of the late U.S. Army Corp. Michael Crescenz, the only person from the Philadelphia area to receive the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, was moved to tears speaking about his brother, and the need to keep sacred the honor he and others paid so dearly to earn.
“We must make sure thee honors are reserved for those who have earned them,” Crescenz said, fighting back tears, offering thanks to the two senators for supporting the legislation.
In addition to the database, Dinniman said the hope is to also integrate more learning about Medal of Honor winners — and the choices they made when it counted — into the state’s educational curriculum.
“The curriculum will ask one question,” Dinniman said. “What will you do in your moment of truth?”
The bill appears to face little opposition. Pileggi, who is Senate Majority Leader, said he expects it to come up for a vote in the Senate shortly and move to the state House of Representatives with the goal of getting it on Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk by the end of the term, he said.