There he is. ACU’s are one size too small. He’s got a Combat Infantry Badge, Diver’s badge and jump wings complete with a mustard stain on his chest, and you better believe he has his nametapes on backward. If the beard and non-regulation footwear didn’t give it away then his uniform did: This guy is stealing more valor than Joseph Cafasso. Now, it’s easy to get lost in the heat haze of fury you’re no doubt feeling after watching this limp noodle try to get a free coffee for his “service,” but you must remember your military bearing when you encounter stolen valor, or you may look like just as much of a fool as he does.
Step 1: STAY CALM
We’ve seen the videos of fellow veterans and soldiers confronting those who would claim to be something they are not; it’s the same every time: Red-faced yelling, cell phone cameras in faces or zoomed in (in vertical mode too) on the usually ridiculous awards these thieves give themselves. It’s understandable to be upset; you worked for your rewards (or lack thereof), and you don’t want to see someone taking from that. It’s also important to remember that you want the fake to be under scrutiny, not you. A much better case can be built against the faker if you maintain a calm demeanor, not to mention the fraud will be more forthcoming with information if you approach him (or her, stolen valor is an equal opportunity employer) with a smile on your face.
Step 2: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING TO PROVE STOLEN VALOR
Film it, whether you do it in secret or as blatant as holding the camera in their face (please revert to step 1), you want to get it on camera. There are two reasons for this. First: if they are, in fact, using stolen valor for personal gain (which is against the law-thanks, Obama) then going to the police will be a much easier thing for you if you have some physical evidence. Second, if it is just some fool wanting to show off all the money he spent down at the local surplus store, you can send the footage to groups such as Stolen Valor, and they will, as the saying goes, make ‘em famous.
Step 3: ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS
Let’s be realistic; veterans forget things. There have been more than a few instances where this has led to someone who has served honorably being accused of stolen valor. This author did that once and believe me; it was not my proudest moment. So, ask all the questions you can. What unit were you with? Where did you go to basic? What badge is that? If you have to go into it pretending like you are just some civilian who’s curious then do it. If they are being dodgy or give a lot of blatantly false information, then proceed from there but make sure. If a guy can’t remember the maximum effective range of his M249 and he says he’s been out for a few years; doesn’t mean he never served. If he’s got a private’s chevron, six deployment stripes, and no unit citation… you may have fraud on your hands.
Step 4: KNOW THE LAW
Back in 2012, the Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, claiming it violated the first amendment. Whether you agreed or not, it was the law. The first amendment protects a**holes too! Capitol Hill was quick to pass a new bill that was later signed into law, aptly called The Stolen Valor Act of 2012. The law made it illegal for anyone to use certain military rewards and citations for personal gain if they had not earned them. That is the law, know it. If you see some yokel walking around in a faded pair of BDU’s with some badges stitched on it doesn’t mean he’s breaking the law, it’s not very tasteful and you may (and should) be disappointed in this person’s life choices, but they aren’t committing a crime, yet. If this same person walks into a Starbucks, Job interview, Bank, etc. looking to get something for those badges… that’s stolen valor.
Stolen Valor, for veterans and active duty alike, is a very serious issue. People who would use what so many have fought and died for to meet their ends is despicable, but there is a fine line between criminal and just being a terrible person. If you see stolen valor just keep the things we’ve discussed in mind. Call that person out, make them internet famous or report them to the authorities if necessary but make sure everything is documented and above all else, stay calm and keep that military bearing that these frauds couldn’t find the time (much like the fake accolades they wear) to earn themselves.
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.