By Allyson Bird
The (Charleston) Post and Courier
Five dark-suited FBI agents showed up at Patriots Point on Friday with two Civil War-era Medals of Honor.
And while the agents had few details about the investigation it took to bring the medals to their new home, they didn’t mince words when it came to describing the kind of people involved in the theft of the nation’s highest military honor.
“I can’t imagine anything more despicable than taking away the honor of those people who earned those medals,” said David Thomas, South Carolina special agent in charge.
The FBI investigates stolen and counterfeit Medals of Honor nationwide. A judge, a police chief and a mayor are among the those who have been arrested in these types of cases.
Retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston accepted the star-shaped decorations Friday from Thomas at a reception in the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
Neither of the two medals was recovered in South Carolina, Thomas said, but he would offer no additional information about where they were or how agents found them.
Livingston recounted the stories behind the medals: Thomas Jenkins, a Navy seaman aboard the USS Cincinnati, continued fighting even after realizing both he and his ship were doomed. George Emmons served in two separate enlistments, each time with one of his sons.
Livingston, a Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient who lives in the Charleston area, said each star represents the spirit of service of all Americans.
Speaking to the FBI agents, he said, “I think what you’ve done is bring back a little bit of America to the Medal of Honor Museum.”
The FBI began pursuing stolen and counterfeit Medals of Honor even before Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act in 2006. That legislation made it a federal crime to falsely represent oneself as an award recipient and stiffened penalties for those who make or sell unauthorized military decorations.
In 2004, the FBI busted a Canadian man suspected of selling Medals of Honor on eBay. In 2007, a Pomona, Calif., water district official faced federal charges for making a false claim that he received the Medal of Honor.
Some of the suspects “displayed them very prominently in their offices,” Thomas said. “How do you explain something like that?”