Stealing Valor: How to Spot a Fake

With Veteran’s Day just behind us, the nation gave thanks for the service and sacrifice of everyone who has spent time in the armed forces. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the world that some people try to “butt in” on this day of thanks and claim credit for service they never actually gave.

When recent wars have sent so many service members home grievously injured or dead, it’s enough to make you furious that there are those willing to impersonate their comrades. Sometimes they do it for financial gain – they often turn up running short-lived fake “service” charities. Other times it’s just a cry for attention by pathetic failures. In every case, it’s wrong – not just because they’re stealing the glory that belongs to others, but because after enough cases hit the headlines, we start to doubt the people who’ve really been there and done that.

So how can you tell if they are who they claim to be? In theory, it should be almost impossible to spot an impersonator because the US military’s dress regulations are freely available online and even the most obscure uniform item can be tracked down somewhere. In practice, it’s usually a lot easier. Fakers can never seem to resist adopting a Special Forces identity or awarding themselves a glittering array of medals and qualifications. Their ability to wear it all convincingly is usually pretty poor, too.

General Service MedalLook out for non-compatible uniform items as an indicator. Someone’s wearing an officer’s cap with an enlisted man’s uniform, or USMC utilities and Navy insignia? Something isn’t right there. Decorations are another place where imposters frequently go wrong. Foreign awards are always a red flag, especially for conflicts where the USA wasn’t involved. A few US personnel have picked up British awards, but if you see someone wearing a General Service Medal, the chances they’re entitled to it are right about zero. You might get some explanation about the secret US contribution to the raid on Port Stanley, but there wasn’t one. Nobody from an undercover SEAL team has ever won the Victoria Cross either.

With US awards it’s easier; if you have any doubts, those who’ve won major decorations for valor can be identified online easily enough. Also be suspicious of qualification badges that aren’t worn properly or seem out of place. Could an Air Force sergeant have done Ranger School? Sure. How likely is it? Not very.

If you see someone at a veteran’s event and you think they’re a fake, stay calm. Don’t cause a fuss and ruin the occasion for anyone, but there’s no harm in asking them where they served. It’s usually easy to tell quickly enough if someone’s making up the details as they go along. If you think that’s the case the best solution, instead of trying to deal with them yourself, is to speak to a cop. The original 2005 Stolen Valor Act was sadly struck down as unconstitutional but its 2013 replacement does criminalize impersonation in some circumstances. In any case, a policeman is likely to lead the offender away and explain the facts of life to them.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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39 thoughts on “Stealing Valor: How to Spot a Fake

  1. So I have this Co-Worker who works with me on nightshift who I am questioning the authenticity of his war stories and his valor.
    First off, I will confirm that this guy is full of shit most of the time, if not all. He talks just about anything and everything, throws in tidbits of useless information and when he tells his stories, most of them must be overly exagerated.
    I would ask more of him, but I don’t really care about him. The guys an ass and although I’ve been there longer than him, he acts like he runs the place and that he has authority over me.

    Here are a few things he says or talks about:

    (1)Has an Ex-Wife is also in the military. Has a few kids with her but since she is in some kind of special forces, she had to “disapear” and took their kids with her. He hasn’t seen her since but is now remarried and has two more kids.

    (2)Rambles about stuff he’s done in the military. Such as accidentally blowing up a propane tank factory (didnt know thats what it was) after shooting at some enemies with a pistol equipped with tracer rounds. Tells me that the tracers could melt the barrel of gun if shot too fast and that he wishes there were more bad guys in building before it exploded.

    (3) Talks about how he got in a gunfight with an enemy in the Middle East. He had a rifle and the other guy had a pistol that, at the distance he was from him, the rounds would just tap him and not actually do anything. He continues to say how he started waving at the guy, dancing, and then pretended to be dead before shooting the guy right through the head.

    (4) Brags about having a collapsible baton and how funny it was to hit people with it.

    He is completely dishonest. He blames me for reasons that work doesn’t get done or for the mistakes that he makes on the job. You think someone who has been through boot camp would be able to handle taking responsibility for their own actions. I mean, the bitching he would get from our bosses wouldn’t be as bad as what he would get in bootcamp.

    I could go on and on…

    1. Most vets that have been into some SH*T during their service do not talk about it as well as what they have or may have done. A lot of it is very quiet.

      Here is a definite way to spot a faker…… When someone runs their mouth about how badass they are and did heroic stuff, 99.99999999% of the time they are full of shit! That .0000000001% of the time Old boy may be telling the truth.

    2. Dude, that guy is full of shit, honestly. And I HATE when people try pretending to be military. Because they don’t know what it’s like to be in actual war, they don’t know what it’s like to have a friend, or a brother die right in front of them. I don’t know what it’s like, but you don’t see me stealing valor and acting like all that. It’s complete bullshit…

    3. First off most of us will never, ever talk about killing people. Either someone has and is still dealing with it because normal sane people never bring it up, or the veteran hasn’t and feels bad, maybe like he hasn’t gone through the same hardship and done his part. Secondly any special forces I ever met while on post were truly the definition of quiet professionals and are very hesitant to speak on the special nature of their job or missions. To these guys, most people wouldn’t understand if they told them anyway. So yeah it sounds overwhelmingly like this guy is full of shit.

    4. Well, now that you know, though, you can milk it for entertainment value. Get him drunk at get-togethers “hey, watch this. Hey Nick, tell us about that time you had a guy 6 on you at the Battle of Bowling Green!”

    5. Basic Physics says that the bullet wouldn’t slow down unless it traveled and incredible distance to the point that air resistance stopped it, until it collided with something, or till gravity finally pulled it to the earth after traveling another incredible distance. That guy is a Phony.

  2. @wings of oblivion That sounds alot like this broad i work with shes 62 years old in a position under me (20) that she has degrees for and consistantly brags about being a “Drill Sergeant” in the US Army but she argues with 20 year olds and never knows what shes talking about. if anyone know a drill sergeant catherine hammond please let me know, im so close to accusing her of false valor and getting her fired

    1. 62? Women couldn’t serve back then in her time if she was a drill sergeant. Women who wanted to serve worked in factories or acted as overseas nurses.

      1. Learn something before spouting off about it. Women have been serving in the Army since 1942, in the Women’s Army Corps, and yes, there were WAC Drill Sergeants.

      2. Actually legally they could join and fight in the military then they could in all the 50s to now but the first women didn’t start really joining or progressing until the late 70s so the likeliness of her being in that position is low it’s possible tho all these people are probably just full of it

    2. It HAS to be FAKE!! Who would brag about being a drill sgt. In the army?? I don’t know her but, I can tell it’s not good.

  3. This guy I just met my first week of college claims to have served in the army but I’m really starting to doubt it. First he claimed he was discharged because he blew out he’s knee repelling from a helo and an RPG flew by and knocked him off…(black hawk down) I knew it sounded exactly like the movie but I have him the benefit of the doubt who was I to claim that didn’t happen. But as a few weeks went by he told us(me and a few of my buddies) one night that he was a sniper in the middle East, which confused me because he said he was infantry when I met him, and why was a sniper repelling out of a helicopter in a close enough range to be hit by a RPG don’t snipers stay a good distance away? But it gets worse to he then told me a few days later that he used the m240 bravo as his main gun which isn’t a sniper rifle nor is it army issue I’m pretty sure it is USMC issued and is backpack clearly says u.s. army but another thing that made me doubtful in the beginning is he is one of the rudest and most disrespectful ppl I’ve ever met and I thought someone with military background would have atleast a decent mount if respect but he has none for anyone and another thing is he is a highschool drop out with a GED nota highschool diploma which I’m not sure about but someone told me the military won’t take you if you drop out and even if basic infantry does I don’t think a GED qualifies you to be a sniper who carries a belt felt machine gun? I wanna hear y’alls opinion on this and maybe advice for what do to is it enough to go on to maybe report a possible stolen valor case

    1. About the ged and dropping out. I did, you need college credits with it though, back in 94 to join the Army. I tried the Air force around 90, 92 the same with credits. I know a person who say they didn’t need and ramble b.s.

  4. Ok so at my highschool there is this teacher assistant that says he is a veteran but there’s that thought that he might be a fake. First off he has never worn any form of symbolization that he was in the military exempt for a hat that says veteran and 3 Purple Heart ribbons on it(79% sure they don’t go there). He is a bit on the obese side and the only time I hear him talk is when he has got a discount at a store because he’s a veteran. I do have doubts that he is but once gain he could be legit.

    1. Are you saying if a veteran meaning they fit the legal definition by the VA does not wear a hat, a shirt or even some sort of pin that depicts pride in being a veteran they might be stolen valor? Also, in the military there are fat assets and then when they leave the military they are still fat asses.

    2. I’m not in the military, but last I checked you could only receive a Purple Heart once regardless of how many times you where injured.

  5. Interesting article. I’ll be doing some more research. I’ve heard a few stories that make me question an old coworker, but then my brother has also printed fake fbi/cia achievements and put them all over his apartment. All of his personal gear was adorned with pins, etc. terrible.

    Diego – monetary gain for fakes is now a crime. It may not hurt to look further into this.

  6. I have a co-worker who always talks about how he was in Vietnam in 1975 during the last days when they were evacuating people out of the country as the NVA tightened the noose. I know he was in the Air Force but that’s about the only truthful thing about his service. First off, he was born in January of 1957 and claims he flew an F4 Phantom in a combat role and duked it out with a MIG-29 which I know is BS as 18 year olds didn’t fly F4s and the 29 didn’t enter service until the early 80s. He’s also claimed that the scar on his head is from a bullet going thru his canopy in a dogfight which he got a purple heart for. I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of the boss so I said nothing. I never served but my brother did a tour in Afghanistan and it irks me that this guy makes up crap to sound like Rambo. Is there a way for me to find out about him?

  7. I had a boss that claimed to be a drill sergeant, an MP, and air rescue. The kicker is she was only in for a year. She got kicked out for drugs, and on top of it all, she claims she was in Iraq in the late 90s. Then she said that when she was in air rescue, she watched a guy stand on a sand dune while the rotor of a helicopter was operating and it chopped his head off. When she was an MP, she claimed she stopped the general at her base and wrote him a ticket which could be true but I find it unlikely that she was all of those things in one year. She was in the army for sure but she was dishonorably discharged.

    1. She was probably someone who didn’t belong in the military, but stayed after basic due to the money. I call these people “miss-matches” or “one year wonders”. They go into the military for the money, barely pass Basic Training, and then can’t handle it. Then they leave with a year and a half of service where they filed papers. They usually get discharged or just leave after a short time.

  8. Some people are disgusting to disrespect the ones who fought to protect their country. So thank you to all of the real veterans who have risked their lives.

  9. Hey guys… So I have an update on my old NightShift Co-Worker.

    Before I go any further, I no longer work at the job that I did with him, nor does he work their anymore, which I will elaborate.

    First off, I was able to find information on his service online. Supposedly, he and another soldier renewed their “contracts” back in the early 2000’s and were each given additional money for doing so. Both the stories in that news article and the interview he had with the local newspaper in my area seemed to match up really well. Also, the guy in the picture looks identical to him now.

    Supposedly, he was relieved of service after he was riding the gunner seat in a Humvee and the said vehicle hit an IED and flung him from the transport. Because of this, he has PTSD, and has issues with his back and knees. This, however, doesn’t excuse him for his bullshit stories.

    Where I worked, Management hated him. Being friends with the Night Lead, he would tell me what was going on since he had an insight to that kind of thing. They basically made him fulltime, but instantly regretted it and were trying to find a way to fire him without the Union getting on their case. With him as fulltime, they were basically wasting money on him when he wouldn’t even put forward the work for it.

    As time went on, drama did unfold, especially when I told him that he wasn’t the boss of me and that he was keeping me from doing my job when he was nitpicking my handiwork. After I did leave though, he moved up North and starting working at another store in the same franchise. Somehow, the company was able to fire him since he didn’t transfer… idk…

    1. How did you find that out? How did you look that up online? Does it cost money to find out some ones service record? There is a dude that claims he is in the United States Marine, that I am suspect about. He is a cheerleader coach, how does one go from Marine to Cheerleader coach? He doesn’t display himself proper during the National Anthem. He slouches, he looks around as if he doesn’t care, just not what I think of a military personal during the national anthem. But he has the Marine Corps flag which he is proud about, but he is just suspect of it.

      1. All I did was search for his name and found two articles for him. One was from around 2004-2005 when he re-enlisted for another 4 years for additional money, the other was from a local online newspaper in our area that interviewed him while he worked at the last company I was with.

        I basically just compared the two articles and everything lined up. Plus, in the older article, the guy in the picture looked like him too.

        But still, I’m sure most of the stories he told were either fake or overly exagerated. And it was just surprising how rude and how much of an ass this guy was, when you’d really think that someone who has been through the military would be more polite and respectful.

  10. I am very sorry people dislike themselves so much they have to drown themselves in fantasey to tolerate themselves. As far as “War stories” about shooting these people or maiming those people or whatever mayhem they THINK they have committed – I will quote my Grandfather “Never talk about the women you have been with or the men you have killed. Its damn bad form:! let it go at that!

  11. Listen.
    You guys are all jealous.
    You guys heard of the Navy Seals?
    I was an Army Tiger.
    I jumped into Fallujah in Afghanistan without a parachute, wearing only a pair of PT shorts, the starched T-shirt from my BDUs, a Class A jacket, my pro mask with a boonie hat, and personally killed Osama Bin Laden, 6 years before he died.
    And I have the spoon to prove it!

    1. That is nothing!
      I was in DEVGRU for 18 years and I jumped out of plane and did a behind the back 420 no-scope on some n00bs.
      Then I killed 149 people using nothing but a handkerchief.
      Get on my level POGs

  12. I’ve read a lot that has been written here and my heart is deeply saddened by all the shit we have going on here at home (USA) to also have to deal with these IDIOTS trying to steal my deeds and all my friends and families hard fought valor. Im a product of all the men in my family tree. All are military MEN!! Yes, MEN! These azzhatz out here are only hurting what my entire family line, myself and all my friends have fought for and gave up their lives for. I’m a disabled veteran who hears these bozos and i just turn away with a sad heart. Confrontation i leave up to my full able body frieds to deal with those azzhatz. A+ to all of you out here protecting our rights and way of life now. I’d give anything to be fully functional again because I’d wanna head to where the 82nd is and be back to my family. 82nd was my family when i was active. Years ago. Thank you to all of you.

  13. Hi guys,

    So I think I am living with a psychopath. I met him about 4 years ago at my job and we because good friends. Well when I first met him I could have sworn he told me he was in the Army, which he states he didn’t he for sure said Marine Corps. Well he kind of bullshits a lot of his stories and I just brush them off because I don’t really care what he has to say. Well long story short we ended up signing a lease on a house together.. after living with him for sometime I come to realize that he SUCKS and he is even bigger bullshitter than what I thought. He has told me horrific stories about being in the military.. things normal retired military personnel would not talk about.. or any normal person for that matter. Well come to find out from one of his life long buddies he has no knowledge of my roommate ever being in the military. I have no seen one picture of him in the military. . he tells me not to bring it up in front of his dad because his dad was upset that he joined in the first place. just a bunch of stuff not adding up.. I can feel it in my heart that he is lying, I just need some help on where to get the information to support my thoughts. I need this crazy man out of my house if he is indeed stealing valor.

    1. He is more than likely one of the many who feel the need to impersonate military personnel. This being said if he is just saying stories and not trying to gain money or reputation from it then he is just being an asshole. I implore you to reach out to his father to see if he was in the military. His parents will for sure know. Good luck.

  14. Well its ppl this that makes me feel sad as a US citizen and a former member of US Army ets as E4 Specialist and a 68W06M10 this is official way to read a MOS/AOC on either printed orders or when u ets on a DD214. But yeah when i first found out about the whole stolen valor thing at first did not want to believe it and as time passed later started to wonder why i enlisted in the first place but i realized later the Hell with those liars and fakes and focused all thoughts to remember all the friendships i had made well good and bad while i was in and others i will never be able to meet again but luckily i still keep in contact while a few brothers and sisters..I am sorry for being random and going off in tangent

  15. Funny. I wear the DSC, Silver star. Legion of Merit, 2 bronze stars, Purple Heart, Arcom with V. I carry my DD 214 in my pocket. I keep getting funny looks when I wear my colors, as if they are phoney. So many wannabes that are jeolous. Do I have to show my proof when I’m asked for it by some asshole?
    I usually show it but it’s getting old. I guess my question is “do I have to prove it to anyone thst asks? I can prove all my awards, but can I tell them to go F… themselves. By the way,, I was a member on the 2nd BN, 75th Ranger Rgt and was in Vietnam From ‘66 to 68. I’m no hero, but I did get many awards. To all my brothers (and sisters)… God bless. and a sacred and happy Memorial Day.

  16. I seen a guy in full uniform today, I’m not sure if he was wearing things right… his pants were tucked into his boots.. is that standard? Plus he was walking around with a regular old puma black backpack.. shouldn’t he have a military issued one?

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