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Wisconsin American Legion officer resigns in reported stolen valor case

Former officer married to department commander

MADISON, Wis. - One of the top officers in the Wisconsin Department of the American Legion has resigned after being caught wearing pins and badges that did not reflect his actual military service, the Legion told News 3 Wednesday.

Howard Gordon Clewell served in the U.S. Army decades ago, but numerous pictures submitted to Legion officials recently showed him wearing a hat displaying a Special Forces Pin, a Ranger tab, a Special Forces Unit Patch, a Combat Infantryman Badge and Master Parachutist Wings that he did not earn during his time in the service. He was serving as the Legion's historian when he gave up his position and his membership with the Legion.

Clewell's wife, Laurel, is the state commander of Wisconsin's American Legion.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Clewell embellished his military service and was caught," wrote Amber Nikolai, the department adjutant, of The American Legion in Wisconsin, in an email to News 3. "When (he) was questioned about his military service and whether he had earned the badges/insignias displayed on his cap in photographs, he immediately offered an apology, tendered his resignation and canceled his membership with the American Legion."

Nikolai said she is not aware of any criminal investigation into Clewell's actions.

Since July 2015, it's been illegal in Wisconsin to falsely claim military service or honors for personal gain. The American Legion was among the groups lobbying for the passage of Wisconsin's Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and a fine up to $10,000.

An email to Clewell requesting comment was unreturned at the time of publication.


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