It's not the speech. It's the qualification.
Who knows what motivation Rick Glen Strandlof had for claiming that he was a former Marine, decorated with a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his actions in Iraq? The fact is, the Marines don't have any records of his being a member of their rolls. That's pretty damning, right there, because the Marines, being the cliquish organization that they are, are darned good about keeping up with who was one of them, for better or worse. (For example, they still claim Whitman and Oswald, and even Jeremiah Wright, among their former ranks.)
So when the Justice Department found out about Strandlof's false claims, they utilized the relatively new Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which broadened a former law against claiming to be a Medal Of Honor recipient. The new version of the federal law made it a violation to claim all badges and decorations of the armed forces as having been earned. (Text here.)
The case went to trial in a Denver federal court. Strandlof claimed a freedom of speech defense, and the feds claimed that false speech isn't protected.
And that was their case.
Well, when you stop right there, it's almost understandable that U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn dismissed the case, ruling that the law was unconstitutional. My argument would have been one of qualifications. If a man puts himself out to be an attorney, but is not, he is guilty of a crime. If a woman claims to be a medical doctor, but is not, she is guilty of a crime. If a person claims to be a police officer but is not, that person is committing a crime. It is proper that these persons be charged with those crimes, because there is a compelling public interest in vesting real doctors, lawyers, and police with certain credentials, lest just anyone claim to be able to be able to give legal advice (that might get you locked up), or do surgery on you (that might kill you), or arrest you (which will take your freedom away.).
What's the compelling interest? Oh, offhand, I would say that it's in reducing the cheapening of the heroism of our nation's soldiers. That sounds jingoistic, doesn't it? It's not meant to be. I simply mean that, if our nation is to stand, it must maintain a group of armed forces that defends it against enemies foreign and domestic. That's a Constitutionally valid goal. If we allow the awards and decorations, badges, and ranks bestowed by our military to be cheapened by permitting those who did not earn them to claim them, then we are undermining the esteem held by the public for our veterans: "Oh, so you're a retired Army Major with two Bronze Stars? So what? That guy begging spare change out on the corner is a former Marine Colonel, with a Navy Cross, a MoH, and a Purple Heart for the damage done to his liver during the Kaiser War!"
In Texas, we've got a law against preparing or presenting a fraudulent educational degree as one that was earned. I'm glad of it, in that I put in my time and money and effort to get my degree, and I'd rather not have its worth diluted by worthless diplomas put out. In effect, that degree is a financial instrument, and may advance my career, earnings, and reputation.
At the very least, can we not look at military decorations the same way, for our veterans? While I was at college, they were earning their own skins on the wall.