What Stolen Valor means to those who actually earned it

A great guest submission over at This Ain’t Hell, from a Civil Affairs Army Reservist. He puts into writing what most Veteran’s believe about the impact of Stolen Valor.

Even before I joined the US Army the idea of military fakers has bothered me. I have never fully understood what makes someone want to present him or herself as something they are not, or wearing something that they have not earned. For starters, I am the “Blackfive Reader” that submitted Darrel Tracht to the Blackfive, that was followed up on here at ThisAinthell.us and the Blackfive.net. It was my first experience actually encountering a military faker, or phony veteran. I myself am a combat veteran, and current member of the US Army Reserve. I was deployed to Zhari District, Kandahar Province in support of Operation: ENDURING FREEDOM X and XI.

Recently I relayed my experience about this fraud to a friend, during that discussion in explaining that this certain individual was posing as a US Navy SEAL, he asked me a very pointed question “but what did he take from you”? In some ways he was right, while I am graduate of the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, I am not a SEAL, I am not SF, how could I be bothered about someone faking to be something I myself am not? That question got me thinking about what we are really losing or what is really being stolen from us as a result of the epidemic of military fakers. What they have stolen for us as veterans is our trust in one another.

To me one of most important things we have as soldiers and service members is trust. From the earliest days in basic training we are taught to rely on each other, to rely on the team, the bond that holds that team together is trust. We have that trust in our fellow soldiers that we will support each other, that if we fall someone will come get us, we will share our last water or food even though we are hungry or thirsty, we will sacrifice for one another even though we may have only know each other for a short time.  It is in our creed, that we will never leave a fallen comrade, and we live it on deployment. We believe and trust that these are facts and not ideals. To us this trust is a scared thing, for many us of after deployment the only people some of us are even comfortable trusting is our own families and military families.

Military fakers break that faith, that strong bond of trust soldiers place in one another, they do this to us because when we meet a fellow veteran or someone claiming to be, no matter how hard we want to believe their story or service record in the back of our minds we are asking ourselves, is this guy a fake? The epidemic of military fakers has caused us to doubt the experiences of our fellow veterans. Instead of embracing one another in our shared hardship and experiences of serving our country, we question if it is authentic. I am sure as you read this submission you are thinking of asking me for my DD214, to verify my service. Since becoming a combat veteran I felt as though I shared unique bond with veterans of other wars, as a community of veterans we represent such a small fraction of our total population. And as we all know, our community of veterans continues to decrease every day.

The trust we have in each other is what military fakers or phony vets have really robbed us of. Because of them, when someone claims to be a vet, instead extending a hand and calling them brother, often our first inclination is to be suspicious of them. In doing so we doubt that trust. That trust, that we have at one time or another placed in the hands of complete strangers that we have served with. Beyond the stolen benefits, the fraud, or the stolen accolades, these liars, have caused us to be suspicious and doubt one another.

We cannot deny that we do it. We seek details to verify those things only we would know, or try to notice specifics or inconsistencies that seem out of place in their stories. It’s not that we are paranoid, we want to believe each other but we closely guard our status as combat veterans, and due to the epidemic of liars, we are conditioned to be on the lookout for those who would steal and malign that status. This doubt now has even extended to civilians doubting service members and veterans. News and local organizations have to ask for verifying documents, because all to often when they have not it has been proven that they have been duped by a fraud.

To that end, that is what I believe these liars steal from us, but because we want to honor those we have served and bled with we continue to root them out, to not let them tarnish what we have earned. While we may lose some of our trust in one another, the greater good is that we continue to expose these frauds because we will not allow those who have not earned, to steal from those who have paid for those honors with their lives.

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