Veterans – What to Do About It
Every month or so, I’ll see in my feeds a new person “Getting put on blast” for getting caught faking military service. That’s what we call it when a faker is caught red handed and a photo or video gets posted to social media. It’s sort of the holy grail for many vets and active duty service members to find some guy pretending to be a SEAL at the bar, or a soldier in cammies at the airport, or a Marine in dress blues. They all want to be that guy who catches them on camera and for it go viral as they are humiliated for thousands… millions to see. We want to deliver that divine sense of justice to teach those nasty liars a lesson.
To all the veterans out there, I really want you to take a look at this person. Please take a good, hard look at him. Not his uniform, but the man standing there.
Is this not a pathetic looking human being? When you look into his eyes, I mean really look at them, does your sense of anger not subside when you realize just how miserable he had to be to do this? Does it not appear obvious that he, himself, is aware of how pathetic he is to attempt this stunt? What hole must exist in his life that he would try so desperately, so failingly, to fill it like this? How angry can you really be at a person like this?
Angry enough to ruin the rest of his life? Do you think this picture is going anywhere? Do you think his name won’t forever be attached to it? Should one incredibly stupid, incredibly insensitive act of jackassery, one mistake, define a person’s entire life from then on? Think back on your time in service. I’ve drug many a drunken Lance Corporal through the parking lots of Camp Pendleton, CA, some covered in vomit, some in their own urine. These people are now all proud veterans, but each have made incredibly stupid mistakes, all of which have been forgiven. But do we forgive others? No, we don’t. Finding them out and making a public spectacle of them is sort of our thing now that the wars are over.
It’s gotten so bad that Terminal Lance, the online comic strip put out by Marine Corps veteran Max Uriante, famed for its abrasive, sometimes caustic satire on military and veteran life, even did a strip on how vehement we can be in this regard. It demonstrates “that guy”, one we all know, making a royal jackass of himself that I would like all veterans to really think about.
I’ll be honest, when all of us turn into that guy, we are making a bigger show of what the military isn’t than anything most of these guys have achieved. We come off as petty and self-righteous which is against our proud and humble heritage. Most of the guys who would do this are just losers who aren’t worthy of our blood pressure (which, face facts, is a problem for most of us.) Putting someone on blast for being stupid isn’t the answer, and in the end, only ends up doubling the number jerks in the room. To be honest, that moment of self-satisfaction isn’t worth it when you come to find out you lost that poor loser his job, or maybe that, in his shame, he ate a bullet. At the very least, no mistake should last forever, which is exactly what happens when you immortalize someone’s mistake online.
Seriously though, it’s getting to be a problem, such a problem that many of us are nervous about speaking out online for the threat of being called out for Stolen Valor incorrectly. It happened to one Army Captain, Lindsay Lowery, who was humiliated after being called out for pretending that she took part in more action than she really did. She faced numerous insults, both as a person faking their service and, simply, for being a woman in the military. As the truth turned out, everything she said was the absolute truth and even her commissioning officer vouched to make that point known. Sadly, once the truth came out, the rebuttal didn’t go nearly as viral as did the initial onslaught of hate directed her way unjustly. People like me, people who write extensively online about military experiences we’ve had, have taken the lesson to heart, “Perception is Reality.” I keep a blacked-out DD-214, the form pretty much validating anything I need to prove, available upon request for whenever someone finally makes that jump of doubting anything I have to say to the point that I need to prove myself, before the lie goes viral. It’s a sad truth, but this is what our culture, the veteran culture, is turning into.
Instead, I wish more people would make fun of it. Seriously, make people aware of the phenomena in a way that educates people while not looking like a self-important jerk about it. These guys at Ranger Up, a YouTube channel put out by some Army veterans, did a great job of it. Very funny.
Where it happens online, somewhere it is way too easy to fake military knowledge and experience, I think we have a case study on how to handle it., one of the newest contributors to , Quora’s military interests blog, recently posted a piece showcasing a military faker here on Quora. This person fabricated a special operations story that showcased the beauty of the human condition to come together in a time of common human suffering. The problem? It could never have possibly happened. The time tables made no sense and there has never be a conflict where these combatants would have been that close to one another for this story to have taken place. It was complete fiction. The bigger problem? It had already been upvoted more than 1,400 times and seen by many thousands of people.
What Tymon, among others, did was to confront the individual separately and politely, in the comments section. They said that there were some problems with the answer that they wanted to know about the event and more about the individual in question. Receiving push-back from the author, and eventually seeing challenging comments get deleted. Some went on the investigation and dug up evidence that this individual not only couldn’t have been in the battle he said happened, but had he been, he would have been 14 at the time. Seeing that the individual wasn’t budging, he made his concern public to the veteran community at. From there, the concern was posted to the Top Writer’s board on Facebook and the admins took care of making sure that the answer disappears forever, as has the author who fabricated it. Nice job Tymon and the DQ. This is the second such Quora Stolen Valor case I’ve been a part of, the other with the help of which went pretty much the same way. Both of these cases, I would urge others to take up as examples of civil confrontations between potentially stolen valor cases and the rest of the community.
As for what to do if you see someone out in town doing something stupid? For all the rest of us, when and if we see one, I wish that instead of grabbing a buddy with a camera, we would instead pull the dude over (perhaps assertively so) and just say to the guy.
“Look, we know what you’re doing and you need to stop. It is against the law to claim some of things you’ve done and you need to stop. Go away now or we will make it clear to everyone here that you are lying about your military service.”
If they fight you or resist your warning… whatever. Do what you gotta do.
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