A comment about Stolen Valor

So this piece of news has been floating through the military ethersphere. Stolen Valor has become a very hot topic over the past 15 years. It is a literal crime for someone to wear medals, tabs, or badges (s)he did not earn, just like it is a literal crime for civilians to impersonate military personnel. But we (in the various branches) read and hear about such cases all the time. And those cases generate a tremendous amount of anger.

As in all things, though, righteous passion can turn to zealotry. And zealotry can make even good men do stupid things.

The world is filled with poseurs. The world is also filled with people itching for an excuse to be assholes to other people, sans guilt.

My take?

Service records have been getting embellished since Alexander the Great. And probably before. Always, the ones who have done the most, tend to talk the least, and the ones who have done the least, tend to talk the most.

I have admired the military, and members of same, since I was a tot. One of the reasons I joined (after 9/11) was because I didn’t want to be sitting on the sidelines. I didn’t want to be one of the people who desires to know what the uniform feels like, but never put his hide on the line to earn one. I didn’t want to be that guy.

I also respond with the same answer any time anyone asks me what I do/did in the Army Reserve: paper pusher! (said with a smile and a laugh) I am fully aware of the fact I am on the dull end of the spear. I go out of my way to claim my cake-eating civilian-most-of-the-time status. Because the truth is, I like being a civilian most of the time.

And I like being able to stand up and do my little part in the giant machine, when called for. In this way, I don’t think I am any different from the original militiamen who left their farms to march with Washington, then went back to those farms when the marching was done. They weren’t soldiers for life. They were simply patriots when it counted.

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be: a patriot, when it counted. No more, and no less.

I actually feel sorry for the guys (and it’s almost always men) who are so tied up in knots over their service records (or lack of same) that they have to embellish or lie. That’s a psychic wound that clearly cannot heal, and I believe it must be a miserable thing to stand in front of a mirror every day, chest pushing out medals you did not earn, or telling the world stories that aren’t true, knowing all along that you are a fraud.

Because ultimately, God knows it too. And that’s the man all Stolen Valor perps ultimately have to answer to.


  1. Oh, my … what a Christmas Tree. And his mustache is out of regs, and cover indoors?
    I’m always slightly embarrassed when they thank me for my service – twenty years of peacetime USAF duty in an AFSC which — is there is one more “in the rear with the gear” than mine, I’d like to hear it.
    And you are correct about exaggerating a service record — didn’t Adm. Boorda commit suicide when he got the word that a news reporter was double-checking his service records with regard to him wearing a medal he wasn’t entitled to?

  2. Yup, it was Boorda. Which speaks to the deep, emotional nature of both military service, and the awards and decorations we all get for that service. Boorda was specifically upset because none other than David Hackworth was checking into Boorda’s service record. Even if exonerated, I think he feared the lingering stain of having it be such a public thing. Which totally sucks, because I think he was exonerated.

  3. Not sure I’m a fan of Hackworth. Isn’t he also the one who went on national radio when Mike Durant got back from Somalia to claim that he’d collaborated, given away secrets and other things, when he absolutely nothing to back it up?

  4. ADM Boorda wore a V he had not been awarded on the Bronze Star he had been awarded.

    Although I never served, I had a lively correspondence with Hack in the couple of years before his death and met him once; I value those memories. My son, a regular infantry major, tells me that his mentors don’t think much of Hackworth. I guess at this point this outsider comes down somewhere in the middle- Hack was clearly a great warrior, combat leader and tactician but narrow minded about the value of the back office.

  5. A few thoughts spring to mind, Brad – if I may.

    A. A spear is a spear. Every piece of it is only as good as any other and if one fails – the thing is a paperweight. I’ve heard it takes four men to put one in the field and I’m sure the idea has merit. That sharp tip of the spear can’t do what it does if you aren’t doing what you do.

    B. We need to define our terms. Honour is a gift a man gives himself. It cannot be given or taken away, and it only exists between and is recognized by you and God. Anyone, from a Navy SEAL right on down to a rod n’ gun club duffer like Yours Truly can live, fight, and die honourably if he or she chooses.

    What you boys are fighting over is recognition and respect, and fighting over either violates the spirit and intent of any honourable warrior code or creed. I am reminded of the conflict between Jessie Ventura and the late Chris Kyle – both honourable, respectable men, both of whom ultimately dishonoured themselves in the effort to ‘protect honour’. To be honest, I am not at all surprised by Ventura; but shocked at Kyle. I read his book and he writes something like you – with a sense of modesty and humbleness befitting a noble warrior…and when he got in that fight, I think he may have forgotten who he was. A drunken bum can get in a fight in a bar. A worthy and noble veteran and warrior cannot.

    Hope your deployment is going well and that more books are on the way.

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