Close encounter with a military poser

09Sep13

Wait…you mean this goofy bastard actually ISN’T Special Forces?

Friday afternoon I picked one of my boys up from school in my Army uniform. At his school, parents wait at the playground for their kids to come outside. I had just walked up to the playground when an older man sitting beside the playground got up and walked toward me.

The man was wearing sweatpants, an old, faded, sweatstained shirt with sleeves cut off, and a USMC baseball cap. The man walked awkwardly, as if suffering from old injuries. His face was unshaven, mouth filled with blackening teeth.

The man held his hand out and said, “I just wanted to thank you for your service in the Army.”

I had to stop and pulse check myself. I’ve had many people thank me for my service, which is always an honor. But I knew who this old man was. I had known for some time.

Two years ago I was visiting a friend in the neighborhood. Across the street, American and Marine Corps flags flew over a house’s front door. A cutout of a kneeling soldier was in the front yard. Vehicles with POW/MIA, Vietnam Vet and USMC stickers all over them were in the driveway. I asked about the neighbor and was told he had been awarded “a big medal” in Vietnam. I decided to walk across the street and knock on the man’s door.

When the man answered I told him I was a veteran and was curious about his service. The man immediately assumed what I took to be a “I’m so humble” stance and told me his story.

He was a Marine Vietnam vet. He had been a sniper. But before Vietnam he was on a secret mission in Russia. In Vietnam he was captured and put in a POW camp. He escaped, found an American unit, led them back to the camp and rescued 85 POWs. “I’m not bragging,” the man said. “But I’ve got a Medal of Honor, a Silver Star and five Purple Hearts.”

At this point, of course, I knew the man was lying. But I wasn’t certain how to respond. Was it possible this man actually was a Vietnam vet, had served honorably, and now was legitimately suffering from some type of mental issues? If I called him out as a liar, would I be doing the right thing?

I asked the man’s name again, “John Smith”, and made a mental note. Then we shook hands and I walked away. As soon as I got home I looked John on the internet.

Shockingly, he wasn’t in the database of Vietnam Medal of Honor winners. A search on his name didn’t turn up anything related to Vietnam. I went to our neighborhood police station and asked the officers if they had heard of him.

They knew exactly who John was. For years he’s been claiming to be a Vietnam War hero. The police have been called to his house many times, sometimes for serious incidents. He’s known as a drunk, liar and scammer. He owns a small business and advertises himself as a disabled Vietnam veteran. He’s told officers he’s got mental problems “from all the babies he killed in Vietnam”. The officers there considered him such a nuisance they kicked him out of the station.

I contacted the POWNetwork.org, which I knew outed military posers. I gave them all the information I had on John. They submitted an open records request to the National Personnel Records Center.

Not long afterward, they emailed me: “Record found. NO NAM.” John had served two years in the Marine Corps, 64-66. Never left the United States.

John’s service record and picture were put on the POWNetork’s “Hall of Shame” (which apparently no longer exists; however, I still have copies of the record and photo). I let the local officers know John was a complete liar, and spread the word around the neighborhood.

Not the same guy, but the same kind of guy

Not long after that, a small nearby town held a parade for a wounded Marine who had just been released from a military hospital. Flags, fire trucks and local patriots lined the main street. Motorcycles and VFW vests were everywhere.

The first vehicles in the parade came into view. And among them, a blue SUV with USMC, POW/MIA and Vietnam Veteran stickers all over it. Driven by John, our local fake Medal of Honor winner.

I actually chased the SUV for a few seconds before I thought, What am I going to do if I catch him? Drag a pathetic old man out of his SUV in the middle of the parade route? So I backed off, shook the wounded Marine’s hand when his jeep drove by, and went straight to the local police station.

Not him either, but they’re probably good buddies who cry over tragic, imaginary war stories together at the VFW

The local police could only document it. I talked to the parade organizers and they said John had only presented himself as a former Marine, not as a Medal of Honor winner. As soon as I could I called the FBI. I was told they only pursue larger Stolen Valor cases where the liar is gaining a large benefit from the lie. They’d look into it, but criminal prosecution was unlikely.

Time passed. I kept my eyes open for John, but never saw him around. Until Friday.

So there I was, standing in a playground surrounded by parents and small children, when this old, pathetic, lying scumbag walks up to me with his hand out, thanking me for my service. Because I was in uniform, anything I said or did to John would directly reflect on the US Army. I took a breath and calmed myself before responding.

Biting back anger, I raised my hand in a “back off” gesture. “I’m not going to shake your hand. I know exactly who you are, John. I know you’ve been lying about being a Medal of Honor winner for years. You need to just stay away from me, because I really am a combat vet.”

John was, to say the least, surprised. He backed away, muttering “Thank you for your service.” I told him, “Just stay away from me.”

He sat down with his wife and kept his back to me. Later, when he was leaving, he gave me one glance, and quickly turned away when he saw me still staring at him.

Since the War on Terror started I’ve met more Special Forces Recon Ranger Sniper SEALs than have ever existed in the entire history of our military. One night a wrecker driver at an accident scene told me he was such a good shot in boot camp, he was pulled out of basic and put directly in SF. Some other guy one night told me he had been SF, wearing black uniforms on secret missions. I asked him which SF group he had been in and he gave me a dumbfounded look, then said, “Uh…all of them. Yeah, they moved me around to all of them.” I had a guy walk up to me in a restaurant and tell me he was SF in Iraq. Then he didn’t know what an ODA was. I had the misfortune of meeting a former SF “PTSD counselor” who was suffering horribly from all his wartime trauma. Turned out he had never served in combat. He altered his DD-214 to make it appear as if he was an Iraq and Afghanistan vet, a Silver Star winner who had been wounded overseas. The actual disorder he suffers from is known medically as “being a lying sack of crap”.

What the hell is wrong with these people? Why do they feel this need to make up stories about nonexistent wartime service, when honorable peacetime service is more than enough to be proud of? And why the hell do they have to spout their ridiculous crap to real soldiers who actually know some truth about war?

Now I’m asking myself if I did the right thing. I once loudly confronted another notorious poser when I ran across him working at a local store. So should I have blown up at this old man in front of all those parents and kids, and let them all know who he really was?

And what should I do about this guy now?

Chris

p.s. I didn’t post his picture and military record because his address can be found on the internet, which then lets everyone know what city and neighborhood I live in.

AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK ON AMAZON, iTUNES/iBOOKS, BARNES AND NOBLE AND AT TACTICAL16.COM

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37 Responses to “Close encounter with a military poser”

  1. Christ, I hate people like this. I just want to open up with, “Hey, have you ever been to a blanket party?” 🙂

    I don’t even talk to people about my service, really (and, honestly, opening up with “I was in the Air Force and got an Air Medal!” kind of gets you the look that says, “Oh, that’s cute. You Air Force people get all sorts of nice, imaginary medals” 🙂

    Honestly, it continues to amaze me how many people have such low moral standards that they would lie about their service (or lack thereof).

  2. 2 Scot

    You should register him with these guys: https://www.facebook.com/StolenValor , tho i’m sure they may have already heard of him. Was POWNetwork similar to the Stolen Valor group?

  3. Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to make a scene or call the cops when I run into these types of pathetic people. I kinda feel like my personal deeply felt derision for them is enough. Most of these poseurs know when they’ve been outed by a real vet. Let them wallow in their shame. A wink, a grin, and a head shake is enough.

  4. Absolutely nothing (unless as the FBI referenced – they’re profiting from their lies). They know, you know… It’s pointless to get your blood pressure up about it. Now, I’m not a wounded warrior or even a decorated one and so my point of ref. may be different. Others have sacrificed much more so they may feel very different and in that case….well, the posers asked for whatever gets dealt.

  5. Hi Chris,
    I suspect these people come in different categories. Some are con artists seeking to financially or socially benefit from it. Others are truly sad and pathetic people that are so self hating they must recreate themselves in someone else’s image.
    As frustrating, outraging and despicable as it is, oddly enough it is a reflection of the towering legacy of so many who served and exemplified the absolute best of America. Try as they might, they will never know the depths of that special fraternity of those who were “there”. These guys see the way most people respond with admiration and respect to service members, as well as the mystique of SF. They know that because of their character and/or physical problems, they will never achieve that level for themselves.
    In your response and the thoughts you had of not distressing this guy’s family, you have again demonstrated the embodiment of true warriorship. Though he deserved confrontation and condemnation, your restraint in front of his children will plant seeds of character within his children, because I have no doubt they know about their father. They saw good character in action within you.
    Interestingly enough, your response is a great example of meekness in the Bible. So many picture a mealymouthed wimp when thinking about the word meek, but in fact it means strength restrained.
    I hate that you or any who served had a moments trouble over these kind of people. I can’t fix it, but I do know the difference. What’s funny is that in their effort to gain admiration, they end up with disgust, contempt and pity.

  6. 7 José

    I was reading your post and I found myself becoming angry at the people you described. I’ve ran into a few in my lifetime and it’s quite pathetic and greatly disappointing to hear their stories. Personally, I think way to much time and effort is put forth to out these individuals. Quite frankly, I believe that these delusional and sick scum bags receive satisfaction from even the negative press they encounter. If each one of these imposters were given a psychological evaluation, it would prove that no one with a healthy and sound mind would lead a life of such great dihonor and deception. No one will ever take away from my own personal honor to have served this beautiful country that I love so much and no one will ever take away the same honor and love I have for those I served with. Perhaps our energy and efforts can be better utilized to tell the stories of those great men and women who have truly served.

    Best regards,
    José

  7. 8 BobF

    “What’s wrong with these people?” Well, ask the same of the motivations of an embezzler, a purse snatcher, a car jacker, etc.

    The only difference to me is the level of violence used. The cloud of motivation seems the same — greed, envy, wanting something that doesn’t belong to them, believing theirs is the right to anything and everything just because they want it. I do NOT believe they do it simply to make themselves look better. I do NOT believe it is an ego thing, though i used to..

    Maybe I’m just being lazy by lumping them all together, but I really do believe it is that simple — whatever motivations are common to thieves includes those common to posers. And I believe they should be treated/handled alike.

  8. 9 Angela

    I think you did really well to in your mild confrontation at the school. Obviously, this guy has some serious mental issues. Stay away from him, you don’t want to be the next enemy in his imaginary wars.
    PS: thank you for your service little brother!

  9. I think public humiliation is a great method of recognizing these pukes. It would be “just like in boot camp” or any other reference they commonly use to segue into their vomited lies to solicit gratitude and recognition from the trusting public. In fact, it would be great fun to form a crack team of actual combat veterans to sniff them out and to berate them to suicide. You know to experience the emotions and anxiety “like returning home to the pogue hell of the USA after being waist deep in VC and insurgent guts for 18 months and having to repress urges to murder women and children.” Just things SF black ops sniper counter insurgency tier 1 operator badasses like us go through. It could be called Quack OPs! They could set up fake awards ceremonies and invite the whole town and then expose them ceremoniously. Instead of the ribbon in the box a pistol with one round and instructions on how to effectively insert into mouth and fire for effect. Ahhh…. just a little daydream here during lunch break.

    Oh and btw: Im not sayin Im a real badass but I was pulled from basic after my dragon fighting skills were seen as the best in the Army and sent to train the marines how to kill fire breathing dragons on etheral staircases. You may have seen some of my handy work on tv. I dont like to brag about it though. It was a darker time in my life. I now run a unicorn shelter and live a life of peace. Semper Ha Ha, dude!

  10. 11 68W58

    Chris-I came to your site from ace.mu.nu but I hang out quite a bit at thisainthell and they do a great job of documenting the posers. I think you did a pretty good job handling this guy and dealing with obvious posers is something that I think many of us struggle with.

    I am never surprised at the lies from those who have never served given the whoppers that I have heard Joes tell. For instance, I guy I knew who was actually a Desert Storm vet (and, as near as I can tell, a Panama vet) used to lie about being in Grenada, the only problem being that that action occurred before he graduated high school.

    There is a scene in the movie “Master and Commander” where CAPT Aubrey talks about how “we do not all become the man we hoped to be”. I think that gets to the heart of the matter. For far too many good enough is not good enough and that’s a shame because honorable service is itself only too rare.

  11. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
    Given your occupation, delivering the deserved ass-whupping isn’t an option.

    But by all means, continue to out them and loudly point anytime it’s appropriate and opportune, because these sacks of sociopathy (the actual clinical name for this particular malfunction) are on a par with people who pretend to be airline pilots and brain surgeons, without the hellpful actual training, and would be taken as such, particularly by the media-tards, given half a chance.

    Besides the “Special Agent Orange” SF Recon SeAL Recondo Snipers, I get seven shades of pissed off at the fake nurses shaking rattle cans for coins outside the supermarket, but unless annoyingly accosted by them, I don’t confront them, despite the strong urge to stand next to them with asign that says “Fake Nurse shilling for phony charity”.

    A large lawn sign that said “I’m a fake combat vet claiming phony valor” might appear on your neighbor’s lawn, (God knows how…), even serially over time, and that would probably provide all the impetus to him to STFU he needs, or at least give him reason to move far enough away to make outting him less personally dangerous.

  12. Personally, I’d slap the guy in front of everybody, just to embarrass him.

  13. You got to learn to let it go Chris , liars are every where. We have our own at my work, we make jokes about him. When Seal team 6 go in ,they meet Doug (the guys name) coming out.LOL

    • @ JoeB…precisely. It’s simply entertainment at their expense. It’s 2013, not 1989…discerning between fact and fiction is too easy and they’re simply too sorry/pathetic or whatever to realize that the joke is on them.

  14. 16 Mike_C

    Chris,
    For what my civilian opinion is worth, you did exactly the right thing at the school. You firmly let the fraud know that you were on to his bullshit and strongly disapproved, but did not make a scene. As you note, while you are in uniform your actions reflect on the service. Given the probable audience, I doubt that few would have understood why you were so incensed, and some would have chosen to side with your “victim” because you would have been perceived as some sort of bully. (Well, maybe not in Texas, but in the Volksrepublik of Massholes where I live, highly probable.)

    Sad to say, I bet the average American can’t read even basic rank insignia, understand the difference between, say, a Ranger tab and scroll, or know the difference between a CIB and CAB. So if ol’ John did actually have a couple of years in the Corps (that would probably be pronounced “corpse” over at 1600 Penn Ave these days /sarc), well, isn’t that close enough?

    Unless “John” is profiting from his line of crap, I’d probably not escalate, but would continue to call him on it when possible, and quietly let people know what a fraud he is where and when appropriate, but try to refrain from major public spectacle, because it most likely would not make a positive difference. In more than one way that’s a sad attitude, but I just don’t see the upside in, say, hauling his sorry lying ass out of a vehicle during a parade, for example.

  15. 17 Don Davis

    Chris: I have had a “vet” tell me he was awarded “THE MEDAL”. Never came right out and said it was the one with a blue ribbon w/stars, just let it hang there. Curious, I looked him up… you guessed it, no record. Contrast that with a conversation I had with gentleman in retirement center about service in WW2. “Yep, three years overseas!” About all he volunteered. His wife pointed out to me a framed fragment of aluminum, dug up from the crash site of his P47 in Belgium. That spoke volumes about the man’s service, did not need to tell me about his DFC or Silver Star (which I knew he had been awarded).

    • 18 KHorn

      Don,
      My father was a WW2 vet and like the fellow in the retirment home, that was about all he’d say if asked. We knew he experienced three amphibious invasions, was wounded twice and had a Silver Star, but once he was out of the reserves people wouldn’t know because he didn’t think it was anything special to talk about, just a duty he performed as expected. If he did tell war stories, it was things like the time in Normandy when his platoon captured a German truck that was “evacuating” the liquor from a divsional officer’s mess.

  16. 19 b9nomoreBrian

    You handled him perfectly in my opinion. Juli Adcock (above) said it best. Thanks, I think I’ll hand[e the bastards like you did. Honor and class Chris.

  17. 22 Pat Emery

    Decking the puke may have been a real bad idea. I’m glad you didn’t.
    I was 4-F, not a big call for underweight 19 yr. olds with cystic fibrosis. I wanted to follow in my Dad’s boots & become a US Army Aviator.
    Dad served tour in RVN ‘Rattlers’ & ‘Hornets’ ’65”66. He flew the beautiful UH-1.
    I know a few men that knew/flew with him in RVN, some of the most rewarding relationships I’ve had the pleasure/honor of cultivating.
    I’ve run into plenty of posers. They’ve been VERY easy to spot just by all I’ve read & been told about by REAL Vietnam Combat Vets.
    I don’t bother to bitch-slap them with the truth because I don’t know that maybe they DID serve in RVN, albeit as a clerk in an Assault Helicopter Company or in a REMF status.
    Since I’ve never worn The Uniform, there is no way I’m in a place to throw rocks. (The exception to that is the guy I grew up with who went to Basic & was discharged because of his debilitating loneliness for his Mommy, yet still tells anyone who will listen about his heroic service with the 101st ABN. Complete with home-made Pump Wings tattoo.)
    It’s amazing how a few pointed questions about units & dates, etc. will shut someone I suspect of being a poser right the hell up.
    Thanks for your Service to our Nation.

    • Pat,

      Hey man, not your fault a medical issue kept you out. Thanks for the poser-busting you’ve done. In my experience, even when you start pinning posers down with specifics they still won’t back off. Then as soon as the “My DD-214 is classified” line gets thrown out, you know they’re absolutely full of shit.

  18. 24 Pat Emery

    Oops, that was supposed to read ‘Jump Wings’ NOT ‘Pump Wings’. I’m very sorry for that particular typo, I sure don’t wanna piss off anybody Jump qualified.

  19. Just saw this interesting site and thought I’d share http://www.fakenavyseals.com/
    (wow, I sound like a comment spammer 🙂

  20. 28 tom

    Current service member myself. Recently had a guy start pestering my fiance back home about her giving him money. I guess she knew him in highschool or something. Claimed he was a navy seal who got captured by the taliban and discharged after his escape due to psychological trauma from “all the shit he saw.” I doubted this story as he recruited through the same office as me, so i called my old recruiting office and they informed me he was actually wanted for deserting after basic. Told them his werabouts, whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

  21. 29 Beth

    Thank you for your service. And thank you for sharing, as I have often wondered about those who lie about their military service. My ex-husband frequently lies about his service, says he burned his DD214, medals but in reality did not finish boot. These lies escalated when our twin sons joined the military (2010). I guess since he is not lying to gain anything financially, there is nothing to be done.

  22. 30 Vaughn 20 yr active duty vet retired

    Chris as veteran should know you DON’T WIN A CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR you are awarded it!

  23. 31 Lana

    This was well written. I did not serve. My father did, and so have many family members. The military posers have been a subject of deep annoyance for me since I finally figured out the bullshit. Secret missions, part of Black Hawk Down, had arms shot almost off and reattached, got “debriefed” at the White House, on and on and on. I never heard about aliens at Roswell, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least! Why people lie about this so much? And more so, why do other people believe these Hollywood-only type stories?

    • Thanks Lana. I have another post about this on the way, just yesterday I had a long-haired, bearded guy working at a gas station tell me he was an active duty Marine and was working on stuff so secret he didn’t even know what unit he’s assigned to.

      I just can’t figure out why so many of these guys feel compelled to seek out real soldiers to spout their BS to.

      And I think these guys make up such grand stories because so many people do believe the Hollywood nonsense. I remember a couple years back, a reporter in Arkansas wrote an emotional newspaper story about a poor, screwed up former Delta Force soldier who had lost like 80 friends after HALO jumping into Afghanistan, and was now living in a trailer alone and playing with toy guns because the government took all his real ones away. Ridiculous, stupid, obvious lies. And the reporter bought them. Who knows why, I can’t figure it out.

      • 33 Lana

        Thanks for replying. I honestly thought I was the only one who observed the military BS all around. I guess I’ve thought, if everyone’s on a secret mission, who’s peeling the potatoes?

        • Lana,

          I had a drunk guy under arrest one night, then I found a USMC ID in his wallet. He had just gotten out and was on terminal leave. He told me he had been in Iraq. I asked him what he did, and he said “I was infantry.” Then he said, “Wait, that’s not true. I was a cook, but I was out with the infantry all the time.”

          I got him a ride home. No poser is going to claim he was a cook, so he had to be telling the truth. 🙂

  24. 35 Gabe

    Years ago, I Met a young fellow in uniform, wrong insignia, TEN (!!!!!?????) service stripes. I asked him if he really wanted to be a soldier. He actually apologized for the disrespect he was showing past present and future soldiers and said that yes he had always wanted to be a soldier. So I asked him why he just didn’t go to a recruiter. The young man said he had issues with certain color blindness. I made him an appointment with his local recruiter, and surprise! He is now in his 8th year in the Navy and doing very well indeed.
    A few of the impostors I have been able to spot seem to have real mental issues. No excuse, but maybe the uniform provides these people a ” reality” that allows them manage their mental issues. I’m no expert but just my opinion. BUT, for those knowingly disrespecting the Uniform, don’t let me spot you.

  25. 36 Paul Yott

    Mr. Hernandez, Sir.
    I first want to thank you for Serving our Country, and wish you a Happy belated Veterans Day. Thank you for sharing your story about these posers. I believe the word should get out about them all. You did an honor to the Service you are representing by keeping your cool in front of those children. I am not sure how I would have reacted. I do notcare for them at all. I lost to many friends and Brothers in Beirut, so I hate when they lie about their services. My Baby Brother and I graduated from Boot Camp together, and one of the Marines we graduated with was wounded in the Beirut Bombing, so posers like that Vet you have encountered strikes a nerve with me. Thank you again Sir for everything you have done for us, and for continue doing. God Bless You and Your Family.


  1. 1 Military | Grumpy Bastard

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