Fake Veterans and Stolen Valor

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One time back in the late 90's, I was having a conversation with someone, somewhere, and the topic of military service came up. I said I was a veteran, and so did he, proudly claiming that he served in the 82nd Airborne Division. When I asked him what his MOS was and what battalion he was in, he got a semi-glazed look in his eyes and repeated that he was in the 82nd Airborne Division. That's when the conversation took another direction; I should have kicked his ass, but then felt kind of sorry for him. As I served during the relatively uneventful mid to late 80's and never saw actual combat (although I saw it in many other forms, lol), I didn't feel a blood-brother rule was violated, so, whatever, dude.

 

However, service members who have actually been in combat, quite often across multiple tours, rightfully aren't nearly as lenient as me. I recently watched a slew of YouTube videos where fake veterans were being busted out by actual veterans, usually over egregious violations of Army Regulation 670-1 and/or the equivalents of the regulations of the other services, which governs the wear and appearance of uniforms, medals, etc. To the layperson, it's an undecipherable mix of metal badges, braided cords, and colored ribbons, but to the service member, any, and I mean ANY discrepancies and/or incongruities are immediately noticed. In addition to rank, a service member can tell from another at a glance where someone has been, what they have done, and whether they have been deep in the shit or not. Back in 1996, Admiral Jeremy "Mike" Boorda, a four-star admiral and the Chief of Naval Operations (Read: Commander of the Navy), committed suicide because of the controversy regarding his wearing of combat decorations that he apparently didn't earn.

 

The people who do this range from being infuriating to hilarious, with hilarity usually being the victor. One asshole who looked like approx. 300 lbs. of chewed gum announced in a shopping mall that he was a Tier One Delta Force Operator. Really? Are Delta Force Operators at least 150 lbs. overweight and announce who they are in shopping malls? Another one evidently took his military fashion cues from Hermann Goering, or more accurately, Curly from the Three Stooges, who in turn parodied Goering, except that at least this asshole didn't have rows of ribbons and medals on his back as well as his front. Another one told me that he took Basic Training in Nicaragua (Nicaragua?) and wound up with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan before being demoted and sent back home. Huh?

 

Poseurs wearing uniforms and decorations are one thing, but poseurs who fake veteran status to benefit from it somehow are another matter, like would-be politicians or other power-seekers. What many, if not most of those types don't realize is that besides the acid test of an actual veteran's visual and verbal scrutiny, it is fairly easy to find out, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. For example, if someone wanted to find out about my veteran status, all they need to do is to fill out the proper request forms, and several weeks (or months) later, they'll have anything that is not restricted, which, in my case, isn't much, as I wasn't a Tier One Delta Force Operator, lol.

 

I'm not sure if this is a crime or not, but it should be. I'd make allowances for things like Halloween costumes or even protests, common sense rules, but for someone to so completely and egregiously take credit for something that others have literally bled and died for is way beyond anything remotely resembling honor and decency. Much like many other assholes, if there is truly a Hell, then they have a very special place there.

Comments

Pardero Added Apr 5, 2018 - 1:39am
Michael B.
Great article!
Interesting subject. I had no idea that a bunch of fakes were going around.
The only thing that I have ever faked is being a writer! 
Hope you enjoyed your break. 
Pardero Added Apr 5, 2018 - 1:45am
Michael B.
We get a lot of vets in the oilfield. Good guys. We got a weekend warrior driver that is a bit of a prick, though.
I am working, but delayed on location. Middle of nowhere, Wyoming; but I got internet!
Michael B. Added Apr 5, 2018 - 1:56am
Pardero, thank you! I was also kind of blown away when I saw the extent of it, as shown on numerous YouTube videos.
 
And, there's nothing fake about you, dude! You're about as authentic as they get! Believe me, I know a bunch of oil patch roustabouts and the like, and the fact that you are such an intelligent and articulate person among such types commands special praise from me!
Shane Laing Added Apr 5, 2018 - 2:03am
I normally asked who their GOC was at the time and what military district they were in. Asking for their service number is usually a dead give away.  We both know that a serviceman will be able to rattle it off second nature.
Michael B. Added Apr 5, 2018 - 2:36am
Shane, that's one of the things I appreciate about being a (former) soldier, in the sense that we can read what a Roman wrote over 2,000 years ago, and regardless of where you are, it's every bit as relevant today as it was then.
Flying Junior Added Apr 5, 2018 - 4:12am
I had heard of fake veterans trying to run for office.  Usually when anyone tries this strategy to gain political stature, it does not take very long for their story to be found out.
 
Only slightly O/T.  Relating to the idea of a volunteer military service.  As far as volunteering to serve after Bush had already started two wars, you could count me in General Murtha's camp.
 
Our brothers and their new-found sisters didn't see combat because the U.S. wasn't starting any wars.  It still seems foreign to me.  U.S. invades Iraq.  I would never have believed this possible from a civilized and established nation.
 
I wish that you could have met my Navy buddies in 1981.  Gotta remember that there was no test for THC.  There was also an allowance for off-base housing.  Rental on a room in Pacific Beach was three to five hundred dollars.  Less than paying off the payday loan sharks.
 
So, my wish list girlfriend was given a choice.  Join up or go to jail.  This was not uncommon.  Another friend of mine was sent to Viet Nam twelve years earlier because he was caught with a large quantity of marijuana seeds at the beach.
 
I'm hanging out in La Jolla Shores where I was paying for a room in an old house.  A sailor calls me up out of the blue and tells me that our mutual friend had given him my number.
 
Dave was one of my favorite friends I ever had.  Dave shows up at my pad and asks me if I have ever done hash under glass.  I knew Dave for more than twenty years.  I called him up in Tennessee one time when he had already suffered a stroke.  He offered his sympathy to me when our girlfriend died an untimely death.  A couple of years later, he was a patient in his own house.
 
We had a lot of fun in spite of the plentiful marijuana, cocaine, mescaline we shared.  The thing that I will never forget about Dave was when he brought over his Frank Zappa record collection.  We would take Dragon LSD and he would play Sheik Yerbouti and older albums.  I remember the first hearing of Carolina Dynamo Hum.  My surfer roommate had the iconic Shiny Beast by Captain Beefheart.   I was a music major.  It was extra-curricular homework.
 
He was an interesting character.  On ship, he was the go-to-guy for everything from little slush loans to extra steaks and liquor in a thriving underground thing that he had created.  But when that guy made port, he didn't waste any time.  He shows up at my place with the biggest chunk of Lebanese Blonde that I had ever seen.  He bought it in Subic Bay.  He asks me if I have a phone book.  A pin sticking up out of the top of the cover.  A jar of glass.  Just light the three grams of hash and try to preserve to smoke.  Crazy fuck.  One of the best friends I ever had.
 
I met plenty of other wild sailors.  One guy was renting a pad in Pacific Beach.  He had invested in top-end Klipschorn speakers.  He probably had the best stereo ever built before or since.  It was 1981.  Bit-by-bit, Dave undermined and stole all of my connections.  A wild La Jolla music student with a car.  Sailors with checks.  Party all night.  Pizza at Little Joe's at 4:00 in the morning.  It was a marriage made in heaven.
 
The craziest thing that I ever witnessed to do with the U.S. Navy occurred in transitional housing located in the Naval Training Center in Point Loma.  Dave is trying to explain to me some archaic regulation that prevented the Training Center Police from searching the barracks of the various sailors that were in transition from one assignment to the next.  Well, okay, fine.  But considering the rarity of being put up on base without any danger of a sudden room search, these guys were well-prepared.  One bookshelf housed a triple beam, just like any other coke dealer.  The men living there were dealing in everything from cocaine, marijuana...  I don't know.  It looked like something out of New Jack City or maybe five drug dealers all sharing the same apartment.  Dave just told me not to be too surprised and don't say too much.  You would think that the presence of my personal automobile would have been enough to tip off the Shore Patrol.  Ahh...  The age of innocence.
 
So two years earlier, our girlfriend gets into a tiny little wreck on a winding hillside road on Mt. Soledad.  All she did was crash a Honda Civic into a little retaining wall.  Six months later she is back in Pacific Beach.  I am driving her to work at the Miramar Naval Base.  The guards always let me in with minimal security.
Flying Junior Added Apr 5, 2018 - 4:34am
Kids today can't imagine the trust and beauty of the friendship between Navy Guards and American civilians.  Those days can never return.  It was the same as it was inte 1960s.  One day she invites me to visit her at the Photo Lab.  So the bros at the gate let me in.  They already know me.  This is thirty years before September 11th.  She welcomes me at the lab and shows me where she develops photos.  She made me a print of a photo of Bob Dylan that she took at a concert.  She wanted to get stoned so we drove out to the southern extremes of the naval base on a little road and ended up sitting in huge concrete pipe sections completely out-of-view, smoking out.
 
Then she took me back to the lab.  All that I am really trying to say is that it was one helluva lot more fun to be in the Navy in 1981.  One of the funniest things was the name tag on the bathroom.  It read, “E.M. Head.”  Enlisted Man Head.  That would have been the best time to volunteer.  Before that War Pigs took over the civilian government.
 
As far as anyone who enlisted after 2003, I wish they all could have sat down and had a little talk with General Murtha.
Shane Laing Added Apr 5, 2018 - 4:51am
I wouldn't tell anyone to join the UK military now especially the army. Each government slashes budgets and its the poor soldiers who bear the brunt of it. Unless new recruits become mechanics i.e. get a trade  the rest of their lives they will be screwed.
Leroy Added Apr 5, 2018 - 6:35am
Thanks for bringing up this despicable practices, Micheal.  Only the lowest of the low would fake medals and military service.  Anyone who fakes a Purple Heart should be shot to see what it feels like.  You hear about it in the news from time to time about some creep doing it for years, even decades.  I know one guy that I strongly suspect of faking service.  He claims that he couldn't become a lawyer because he suffered from dyslexia, so he became a marine fighter pilot instead. 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Apr 5, 2018 - 10:30am
As much as I'm against canonization of "service" as I believe it encourages further wars I will agree with your premise. 
 
My reasoning is the level of pathetic required to desire to be held in a stead that is ultimately damaging to society.
Rusty Smith Added Apr 5, 2018 - 10:49am
If busted I'd like to see them give a compelled two year enlistment so the can learn more about who they are pretending to be.  I'm sure many are unfit for real service but heak the military always needs people to pick up trash, pull weeds, wash dishes, do laundry and clean bathrooms.
 
Of course they well might refuse and if the do I think a court martial is in order.  No need to waste taxpayer money incarcerating them, let them go back out into civilian life with a dishonorable discharge on their record.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Apr 5, 2018 - 11:25am
Shane, I wouldn't even ask my worst enemies to join the German army under this government. They do it anyway.
Dave Volek Added Apr 5, 2018 - 11:58am
There have been a few media reports of Canadians pretending to be veterans as well.
Dino Manalis Added Apr 5, 2018 - 12:20pm
Veterans should be respected and their medical expenses ought to be paid by the Pentagon, because they deserve the best care and they're our heroes!
Stone-Eater Added Apr 5, 2018 - 2:02pm
When I was in Calgary in 1980 I had the offer to work on offshore oil rigs. But I thought I wasn't robust enough and my eye sight was already bad enough so I decided to turn the offer down.
 
I guess I was right. I had Canadian friends who made good cash there, but it must have been a hell of a job.
James Travil Added Apr 5, 2018 - 6:31pm
It's reprehensible that this kind of thing happens, but it's not a shock. People nowadays seem to have no honor and no limits to how low they will go. Rusty's idea sounds like a great solution. If you claim the service, be made to do the service. That or jail time. But yea it seems like it's a contest anymore to see how dirty of deeds can be done as dirt cheap as possible. So few things surprise me. 
Bill H. Added Apr 5, 2018 - 10:51pm
 
A friend of a friend has always told us tales of when he was in the Navy Seals. To make a long story short, he ran into a guy at his daughter's wedding who was a real Navy Seal. After bragging about his exploits to the "Real Seal", he was confronted with some questions about his unit, leader, and code names for some of their missions. Needless to say, he flunked the Q/A and was verbally tongue-lashed in front of everyone at the wedding.
A lesson well learned.
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:54am
@ FJ - That was a string of interesting anecdotes, which I'll try to address when I have more time. It reminds me of 1989, which was the last time I snorted coke and dropped acid, lol!
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:55am
@ Shane - Despite my late spate of anti-British comments, I definitely excluded you, lol! I know where you're coming from, but ultimately we all serve at the pleasure of the government and the taxpayers.
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:55am
@ Leroy - Of all the decorations, faking the Purple Heart should be the worst offense possible.
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:56am
@ Captain Gilbert - Jeffry, thank you for commenting! I have no doubt whatsoever how you would react to someone claiming to be a sailor in any way, shape, or form. It would take you milliseconds to see through that, on a slow day, lol!
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:56am
@ Rusty - You're too kind, dude!
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:56am
@ Benjamin - That is another huge topic altogether - Bundeswehr! I'll have to gather material for another post on that one!
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:57am
@ Dave V. - I know I've poo-poo'd Canadians here in the past, but seriously, you Canucks have an impressive record, especially Dieppe - True, a lot of Canadians were smoked there, but countless lives were saved later as a result of their hard-won experience. I'm sure that Canadian vets aren't very much different than their counterparts around the world in their abhorrence of military poseurs, but you're probably much more polite about it, lol!
 
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:57am
@ Dino - Thanks dude!
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:57am
@ Stone - LOL
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:57am
@ James T - I really cannot improve on your comment - Also, it's been a long time since I listened to AC/DC, lol! Life imitating Art at its very best!
Michael B. Added Apr 6, 2018 - 1:58am
@ Bill H. - That was an excellent, but sad example of how some can fake it for so long and get away with it. From what you related, the real SEAL still acted with admirable restraint, although the wedding video probably took a hit or two, lol!
Stone-Eater Added Apr 7, 2018 - 12:31pm
Michael
 
I knew a guy in Calgary who worked on the rigs. He was there for a month straight, 24/7, but returned to Calgary for some days off. He got 8'000 CAN$ a month, that was a hell of a pay at that time.
 
And we had a free 3-day-weekend in local pubs when he came back ;-) He was a Tabernacle French Canadian from Montreal. Didn't understand him at all, but I understood the jugs he was ordering LOL
Leroy Added Apr 7, 2018 - 9:17pm
Michael, your article inspired me to search YouTube for stolen valor videos.  
Michael B. Added Apr 12, 2018 - 5:25pm
Leroy, sadly, there doesn't seem to be a shortage of them.