(Richard Rahn...just another stolen valor douche bag...note the CIB, jump wings, Ranger tab, and plethora of self-awarded decorations.)
I'm going completely off topic in this post to address a malaise that seems to keep spreading despite the hard work and relentless pursuit of the truth by concerned military veterans, active duty military personnel, and their friends and families. What am I talking about here? Stolen valor, of course.
You Can Well Imagine
First off, most of you know already that I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War. I have two tours under my belt (1966, 1968) and a Meritorious Unit Commendation (MUC) for combat operations as well as the Navy/Marine Combat Action Ribbon (CAR). The latter simply means I was in combat (ground or surface) and under enemy fire. None of my service ribbons, campaign stars, or citations are extraordinary in any sense whatsoever nor do they warrant any special consideration because they don't come close to the high-level awards for heroism in combat like the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, or the Silver Star (and the Bronze Star when awarded with the "V" for valor device). Like I said before I was no hero and I will never claim such. I was simply a very lucky survivor...nothing more and nothing less. I just did what I had to do and tried my best to make sure both myself and my buddies returned home again. That said, I've always felt I should've done more and perhaps could've done more in Vietnam, and I felt very bad for many, many years that I came home intact when so many didn't. You see, I carried a pretty good load of survivor guilt over the course of time until I finally started to make peace with that seminal experience and my role in it. My wounds were mental and emotional, not physical, and at times I struggled with that fact mightily. So you can well imagine what it's like for those who served in any war who were crippled, blinded, or disfigured in addition to the post traumatic stress.
Heart of the Matter
This brings me to the heart of the matter. I can't tell you how unbelievably angry I get when I see or hear about phonies (in the United States or elsewhere) playing the role of veterans or even active duty military personnel and claiming combat service or sporting uniforms bedecked with high-level awards for heroism, ribbons like MUCs and CARs, or Combat Infantry Badges (CIBs), Navy SEAL tridents, special operations (Ranger, Commando, Special Air Service [SAS], etc.) patches or badges, and so on, ad nauseum. Think I'm joking here? Well, I'm not. There's an entire strata of lowlives out there who actually strut around in public claiming to be heroes or wanting to be admired as "fighting men" a la the John Wayne stereotype (by the way, those who played out that stereotype in Vietnam didn't last very long...just so's you know). These stolen valor parasites speak at high schools packed with impressionable kids, show up at military ceremonies or public functions, give interviews on the radio or television, stroll around malls impressing the girls, or get online to wow the gullible with their phony tales of derring-do as stone-cold killers, prisoners of war (POWs), or special ops wonders. I've found myself that these sorts of scumbags usually come in two distinct varieties, TYPE 1) the wannabe heroes and phony badasses, and TYPE 2) those who simply want to be seen in uniform, and noticed and admired. There is a distinct subset here as well. Some of these ass clowns actually served in the military at some point or another (often in peace time or without any combat experience) and the others never saw military service at all, any time or anywhere. Additionally, the greatest majority that I know about have been or are male although there have been stolen valor cases involving females as well.
Eventually most of these phony "heroes" are unmasked or they trip themselves up by their stupid mistakes or by taking their sick fantasies too far. A very common error made by many of these idiots is the wearing of uniforms that are mixed or matched or are not regulation. Or they wear shoulder patches, ribbons, or decorations inappropriately or in the wrong locations. Any veteran worth his or her salt can spot these sorts of inconsistencies quite easily and it doesn't usually take very long for the offender to get yanked up. Here's former combat infantryman Ryan Berk (E Co., 2/506th, 101st Airborne Division) calling out a fat TYPE 2 shit bag like this at the local mall:
Irony of Ironies
Some years back there was a rash of phony Vietnam veterans online and especially in chat rooms and on various social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, and so on. Hell, some even hung out at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. What an absolute disgrace. It sickens me to even think about it. Anyway, I've always found this (and still find it) highly ironic, among other things. As a specific class of veterans, those of us who served in Vietnam were treated as poorly as possible upon return by many Americans (mostly those of our own generation and the typical leftist intellectual, anti-war types of that era). I know myself that when I attended the University of California in the early 1970s (I returned home from my second and last Vietnam tour in the late Fall of '68) those little shits were still running around on campus waving National Liberation Front (i.e., Viet Cong) and North Vietnamese flags (I have the photos to prove it, by the way). You can imagine how that made me feel. But I kept my mouth shut and my head and ass down...just like Vietnam. Where's the irony you ask? Well, some of these same a-holes I'm describing who treated us like dog poop at the time suddenly had a change of heart and decided that they wanted to be Vietnam Veterans too. Or alternately, Vietnam heroes. I guess chasing all that skirt and smoking all that dope back here in the States while we were fighting and dying over there wasn't fulfilling enough for them in the end. I myself have "outed" at least a half-dozen phony ass Vietnam Vets over the past 20 years or so, including one at work who was making all sorts of outlandish claims to the women and gullible nerds here until I got in his face and exposed him to one and all. Lying sack o' shit. These sorts are the lowest of the low and deserve everything they get in the end.
(The real deal. Posthumous Medal of Honor winner SPC. 4 Leslie Sabo with his M-60 in Vietnam.)
(The phony. Fake Marine Colonel Mike Hamilton sporting at least two Navy Crosses and yes...count 'em...FOUR Silvers Stars for his heroism in Vietnam...oh, did I mention eight Purple Hearts too? This TYPE 1 scumbag was finally exposed and sentenced for fraud.)
The phony Navy SEAL phenomena has really mushroomed in the U.S. with all the positive press given to the SEALs in recent years (and rightly so). Coincidentally, the overall "popularity" of the SEALs these days has spawned a whole new level of pond scum...doggie turds who falsely claim that they're SEAL team members (usually from SEAL TEAM 6, of course). These morons include just about every sort of n'er-do-well, mommie's boy, hustler and scammer, and verified psychotic imaginable. Many of these assorted fruits and nuts sport high-level decorations for bravery, wear the SEAL trident as lapel pins, don SEAL T-shirts and boonie hats, or have SEAL bumper stickers on their vehicles. Go f'ing figure, right? But strutting your lame ass around town masquerading as a SEAL or on the Internet or being the keynote speaker at some high school gym claiming the same can be risky business indeed for these miscreants.
Former Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Don Shipley is a hoot to watch and listen to as he roots out phony SEALS across the country and throughout the world at large. Don's been at it for years now and he's as relentless as they come and has a lot of fun along the way. God help the phony SEALs he and his buddies put their sights on because once they do it ain't gonna be pretty. Here's Don doing what he does best with what he calls, "You valor stealing pieces of shit."
A Federal Crime
Anyway, by now you're starting to get the drift about stolen valor and those who perpetrate this crime. Yes, you heard right. Under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 it's a Federal crime "for an individual who, with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit, fraudulently holds himself or herself out to be recipient of the Medal of Honor and certain other decorations, medals, or badges." This latter includes the CAR which the Act defines as a "badge." Any poser you know who may be out there should know that he or she faces a fine and imprisonment for up to one year for playing the stolen valor game. And if you do know of someone who claims all sorts of high-level combat awards or whose war stories seem far fetched (multiple high awards or decorations, tall tales about breaking out of POW camps or committing assassinations of high-level figures, or telling you they can't provide documentation of their service because they were involved in "secret" ops, or other such adolescent drivel) you should lean in and listen a little closer. Do some background checking and you'll very likely find that you're dealing with a stolen valor impostor yourself. If you do shine the spotlight on one of these a-holes, don't let them off the hook but go to your local press or TV station and let them know about him or her and the issue of stolen valor. Or, failing in that, contact me and I'll help get you pointed in the right direction.
Those of you in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, Germany, or any other country that sent troops to fight in Iraq and/or Afghanistan take heed as well. Chances are there are any number of liars and stolen valor thieves at work in your countries as well, maligning the honor earned by those who were rightfully there and stealing government support money as well as your hard-earned service. They are a blight to the sacrifice of all our friends in all wars who paid the ultimate price.
I don't wish these idiots on anyone.
Thanks for listening.
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org