News & Features » Happytown

We go ribbon-cutting with Kevin Beary and push media buttons with sexy vegetarians

by , and


Last year, during election time, Marine Corps Capt. Derek Watson of Orlando got something in the mail he didn't like: a re-election flyer from Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary. It wasn't the candidate that bothered Watson, it was the ribbons on his chest.

Watson recognized that the ribbons on Beary's uniform were military decorations, including an Army Bronze Star, a Navy Silver Star, a Navy pistol marksmanship commendation and an Armed Forces Overseas medal. None of which sat well with Watson, who believes military ribbons should only be worn by those who earned them. Any other use is disrespectful, he says.

"Who is a local sheriff to take the federal award system and apply it to his local needs? It's wrong."

It's also illegal. Title 18 of the United States Code, Part 1, Chapter 33, Sec. 704 states: "Whoever knowingly wears, manufactures, or sells any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof, except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both."

Beary didn't earn the medals on his uniform in the military. He told Happytown™ he buys surplus military medals and uses them for sheriff's department commendations. Until Watson complained, he didn't realize the practice was illegal. "We've used outdated military ribbons for years," he says. "We didn't know we were doing anything wrong. We were doing it as a cost-saving thing."

The practice is going to stop, Beary adds, meaning he's going to have to pay more for commendations specific to law enforcement; surplus military ribbons can be had for about 10 to 13 cents each, he says, but law enforcement versions cost a lot more.

He'll allow deputies who earned medals in the military to wear them on their uniforms, though.

Even that doesn't sit well with Watson.

"If I get out of the military and work at Midas Muffler, is it proper to wear the ribbons I was awarded on my uniform there?"

Once again we doff our chapeaux to the marketing department over at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. From women in chains to billboards with Dennis Rodman naked, these folks know how to push media buttons.

Latest example: The Sexiest Vegetarian Alive online photo contest. As you might conclude, this is a beauty contest, only instead of professing to want to save the world, the contestants profess a disdain for eating animals. PETA calls them "Tofutti Cuties" and "Sultry Soy Boys," which is silly, in our humble opinion. We like to think of these non-carnivores as steamin' hunks of textured vegetable protein love. We're still working on that.

One of the finalists is from our midst: Debra Simpson, 23, of Winter Park. Simpson, a member of the Orlando Animal Rights Alliance, is a professional model who spends her weekends not eating meat and protesting at local puppy stores. "I've always been very compassionate toward animals," she tells Happytown™. "I grew up in Kentucky and never really met a vegetarian." Mmmmmm, Kentucky.

A panel of PETA people (alliteration!) made the contest's first cut. Now there are 10 men and 10 women, and the voting is open to all.

According to Simpson's online profile, which you'll find at, her biggest turn-on is someone who knows "how to put that tofu power to good use … with and without their clothes on."

Sure firms up our bean curd.

Since 1885, following a protracted, nationwide dispute between Catholics and Protestants over which Bible should be used in religious schools, the Florida Constitution has included a clause banning the state from using taxpayer dollars to "directly or indirectly" aid religious institutions. That's no fun if you're a conservative who thinks God and government should freely mix, but everyone else agrees it's a pretty good idea.

In August, the state's First District Court of Appeals threw out Gov. Jeb Bush's "opportunity scholarships" – vouchers that enable kids in poor schools to go to private schools on the state's dime – saying they "directly or indirectly" aided religious institutions. Bush, of course, appealed the ruling. He's always doing that sort of thing when it comes to pandering to the fundies.

If the Supreme Court agrees with the DCA and tosses the vouchers, state Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, has a backup plan: Change the constitution. Webster and his conservative comrades in Tallahassee are already "reviewing" the state's constitution, and will most likely ask voters to approve amendments in 2006. According to stories that ran in the Miami Herald, the Tallahassee Democrat and the Palm Beach Post, Webster wants to dump that pesky separation of church and state.

Interestingly, the Orlando Sentinel didn't have anything to say about the issue.

Webster says he's not pushing for a theocracy, and that the stories took his comments out of context. "The church-state separation is pretty much a federal issue," he says. "We have the exact same language in our constitution. You can't do anything to those."

He says he's worried that the appellate court's ruling is too broad. For instance, Bright Futures scholarships that use state grants to help the deserving pay for tuition might be cut, since they allow students to use the money for private schools. Bush's voucher program would be gone. But so would Medicaid payments that the state sends to hospitals, such as Florida Hospital, affiliated with churches. And, Webster says, money that goes to historically black colleges could disappear too, if the schools are affiliated with a church.

"If all that comes down, there needs to be a change," he says.

We have a copy editor here at Happytown™ who monitors the message boards at; not that we're implying she's testy or anything, we're just sayin' … [Go ahead, laugh it up. Over on they're discussing which bodily fluids to dump in rude customers' food. – copy ed.]

Anyway, one of the hot topics on every copy editor's favorite bitch board – er, forum for open and free expression – is how many newspapers, including our beloved Orlando Sentinel, screwed up references to Jacksonville being the smallest city to have hosted the Super Bowl. With a population of more than 700,000, Jacksonville is actually one of the largest host cities. Pasadena and Palo Alto, Calif.; Pontiac, Mich.; Tempe, Ariz.; Miami; Tampa, Fla.; Atlanta; New Orleans and Minneapolis are some of the smaller burgs to have hosted the big game.

The St. Petersburg Times, the Associated Press and the Tallahassee Democrat were among the guilty. As one testy copy editor (not ours, who isn't the least bit testy) noted in a post, "If they meant to report that Jacksonville was the smallest metropolitan area or the smallest television market to host the Super Bowl, they should have said that."

Damn, those people are … irreplaceable.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.