I went down a rabbit hole of Stolen Valor videos on Youtube the other night. Even I, after all my experiences at work and on Topix, am surprised at how prevalent it seems to be. One ex-Navy SEAL seems to have devoted his retirement to busting fake SEAL's. In the segment I watched he busted three current used car salesmen for trying to pass themselves off as former SEAL's. These three just happened to be used car salesman and that's just the way the complaints came in that week so, that profession isn't necessarily rife with phony SEAL's but, come on...it's used car sales...
There's a boatload of these videos out there though and most are really just pathetic people cos-playing soldier. Mental illness seems to be a major factor and I, at least, find myself feeling very sorry for the offenders. Their stories unravel very quickly as they are confronted by veterans with cell phones while going about their daily business. These poor bastards are Army Rangers and Marines and made captain out of boot camp and yada yada. I'm amazed at how, when confronted, they double and quadruple down on their bullshit rather than hightail it before the actual vet gets angry and maybe whups their ass. Maybe I shouldn't be amazed but, as seen every minute on the internet, the George Costanza line rings true:
"Remember, Jerry- it's not a lie if YOU believe it."
That's why I think it's generally mental illness afoot. You see these sad sacks on the internet and you wonder if they don't have mirrors in their homes. They're active duty Force Recon and 30-40 pounds overweight? Some guys have scammed the VA for benefits, even without ever having served. That, of course, is a crime as is stolen valor itself. It's one thing to fib a little to puff yourself up and quite another to be getting benefits you have to right to. Some guys seem to be doing it for a military discount at Starbucks or any store offering one but, I gotta believe those discounts are hinged on a valid military ID rather than showing up in fatigues or dress blues. I mean- what about hunters and hillbillies that just wear camo because they think it's stylish?
At work and at play on the late, not-so-great Topix, claiming military service was basically a way to intimidate other people. Don't fuck with me...I've been in combat and killed before... In the case of a used car salesman, I'd guess the idea is to impress car buyers more than intimidate but these guys are usually turned in by coworkers who find holes in their stories. Or maybe find them obnoxious. There were two guys on Topix that I can think of that claimed Marine service in Vietnam- before and after actual US involvement in 'Nam. Quite likely they were Marines, just nowhere near 'Nam and bullets flying. Some embellish actual service but most of these guys just seem to be winging it based on things they saw on TV or movies. Actual veterans on the street know the right questions and answers involved in drawing these men (and women!) out. What's your MOS? What's your pay grade? Most of these guys unravel at that. And, they almost always get the uniform wrong. Dress Blues and...crocs? One guy was in fatigues and wearing sneakers. He said it was "Casual Friday..." On the internet and in real life they ask for DD214's. Those are discharge papers. I don't know all that's on them but I bet it's not info anyone wants public. I'll bet like one's SS number is on there. I don't know. But it was comical on Topix when one phony would demand of another that they post their DD214. The first liar doesn't have a chance.
I shouldn't be surprised there are so many liars- and I'm not. I guess I'm surprised that so many are so bad at it.