In 1973 Specialist Jaime Pacheco was killed in Vietnam. It's what happened after the soldier’s death that put his best friend on a life-long mission.
In 2005, a man in California took Pacheco’s Silver Star citation and put his own name on it, Doug Sterner said.
“This isn’t grandpa telling a war story," Sterner said. "This is a con-man telling a lie to defraud other people."
Sterner and his wife, Pam, have exposed countless people posing as medal recipients. They are also the only ones tracking the real heroes.
Sterner said he spends 10 to 14 hours a day building an online database of veterans and a list of all their awards.
This week he testified before Congress and criticized the Department of Defense for not having a system.
The Vietnam veterans says he’s had cases where families of decorated officers were turned away from Arlington cemetery because the branch of service did not have a record of their award.
The Sterners recently found themselves in the in the middle of a national debate surrounding the constitutionality of the Congressional Act. In 2006, Pam Sterner wrote a college paper that is considered a blueprint for the law that bans lying about military honors.
Doug Sterner said he's uncovered 2,000 cases involving phony medal recipients. Now his focus isn’t so much about finding frauds as it is about finding help to complete his work.
“I wish we didn’t have these, because every time I have to deal with the stolen valor case, that takes away hours I could be typing the historic record of a real heroic man or woman,” he said.
Sterner’s database is run through the Military Times. It’s called the Hall of Valor. Anyone can search the database or submit citations to be added at the site or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.