Stolen Valor is No Big F**king Deal


This was published last week on



We’re losing the fight against Stolen Valor. It seems like every week we hear a new military poser story, involving a range of people from homeless bums to senior politicians. Many veterans, myself included, have personal stories of poser encounters. Web sites like Guardian of Valor and This Ain’t Hell continually expose egregious Stolen Valor cases, and aren’t likely to run out of story subjects within my lifetime.

Here’s evidence of how bad the problem is: approximately 3,400,000 Americans served in Vietnam, off its coast or in the Vietnam Theater. But according to the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, nearly fourteen million have lied about serving in Vietnam. “During [the year 2000] Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country is 13,853,027. By this census, FOUR OUT OF FIVE WHO CLAIM TO BE Vietnam vets are not.” (


The scope of the Stolen Valor problem is enormous. I think there are two main reasons why. First, so few Americans today know anything about military service that tricking them with unbelievable war stories is ridiculously easy. And second, fewer and fewer Americans care at all about military honor or integrity.

Military lies are easy to pull off

Last year I met an old Army buddy, Dave, for dinner. We were friends before deploying and later served in the same company in Iraq. He did two notable things in Iraq: after his convoy was ambushed and stopped one night, he ran around in the open under fire trying to get it moving again. And he – literally – dug up an Improvised Explosive Device with his bare hands during a patrol.

The IED thing deserves explanation. While patrolling Dave saw wires leading to a pile of trash beside the road. He called it out and moved up to investigate, but wasn’t certain it was an IED.

“They always told us not to waste EOD’s time with false IED reports,” Dave said. “I figured I better make sure it really was one before I called it in.”

He dug into the trash and saw the wires going into the dirt. So he dug into the dirt until he found an artillery shell. But it wasn’t connected to the wires, so he kept going until he uncovered a second one. Wires were going into this one. He finally stood and announced, “It’s an IED!”

Dave told me about it a few days later. Long before he finished the story, I interrupted him with “WHAT THE FUCK COULD YOU HAVE POSSIBLY BEEN THINKING?” I was sure some frustrated insurgent had been screaming “Allah dammit!” while watching him and furiously touching a wire to a car battery.

So last year when I met Dave for dinner, an old high school friend joined us. My high school buddy was a Navy veteran who served in the 90s. When he sat down, I introduced them.

“Joe, meet Dave. We served in Iraq together. He’s all messed up because an IED went off in his helmet. He would have been okay, but a secondary went off on the other side.”

Dave burst out laughing. I joined him. But my high school friend flinched, waited for the laughter to die and quietly asked, “Are you doing alright now?”

My high school friend is no dummy. He’s an educated, intelligent professional, and is involved in organizations and activities that support veterans. He just didn’t get our Army humor, and because he never served in Iraq he didn’t know how ridiculous the IED-in-the-helmet joke was.

A Navy veteran was that easy to trick, if that had been our intent. How easy do you suppose it is to trick someone who knows nothing of the military?

Read the rest at

4452_1084593231917_5914735_n (2)
Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for and Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at or on his Facebook page (

14 Responses to “Stolen Valor is No Big F**king Deal”

  1. Here’s another angle to the problem: there aren’t that many times that society allows someone to punch you in the face and say you deserved it. But accusing someone of faking their service – when they actually did serve – is one of those times.

    There’s also sort a pop culture trope that shows up in movies and books and stuff about the broken down bum on the street who claims to be a veteran, which nobody believes – and then of course it turns out he actually was and everybody else was an asshole.

    Nobody wants to be that asshole. I think most of us civilians feel it’s out of line to question anybody who claims to have served.

    • Who says you should punch every suspected poser? I’m just telling people not to blindly accept claims of military service, especially heroism.

      • Chris;

        Read Vendetta’s post again. He was saying that the military vet that you call out will punch you in the face for calling him out. Not that you should punch sspected posers.

        Vendetta, I don’t think Chris was even advocating calling anyone out on it. Just to stay frosty when somedood is claiming to be a war hero.

        Generally speaking, I’ve found that the guys that I know of who really are war heroes don’t go around talking about their accomplishments and all the cool shit they did. they may tell stories of their time in service, but like Chris, they typically undersell their own contribution.

        You know, sort of shrug their shoulders and act like it was no big deal that they took on that pillbox and killed 20 insurgents single-handedly.

        THe guy that is pounding his chest about all the bad guys he killed with his bare hands?

        That’s the guy you gotta watch out for.

        • 4 Stuart the Viking

          I believe my erstwhile sparring partner of late was actually saying that a real-life vet, when called a fake, would be excused for punching his accuser (see Vendetta, I DO read your words 🙂 ).

          Sadly, I don’t believe society at large is as forgiving of that sort of behavior as it once was.

          I have been on the receiving end of just such an accusation, made by (a drunken) someone who didn’t feel like I “struck him” as someone who was in the Marine Corps. No matter. While, admittedly, I didn’t actually “go to war” in my time in the Marines, I know where I was, and I know what I did. I am often found wearing a cap with the EGA on it because it reminds me of the good times, and good friends I had in my 6 years in the Marines.

          No punching required.


        • Aha. Good catch. I confess to having misread that. I therefore adjust my statement to, “Who says you have to accuse them of lying? Just don’t blindly accept anyone’s claim of military service.”

  2. British army joke … 22 SAS is the largest regiment in the world, because of the number of people who claim to have served in it.


    Sent from my iPad


  3. 7 Roy in Nipomo

    In my limited experience (going way back to listening to stories from WWII vets), most of the guys who spent time in combat will mostly tell stories of the “funny” things that happened (though some things were of a macabre humor). Even the ones who were honored with medals for valor/bravery would gloss over them with a “I really did do anything anyone else wouldn’t do at the time” when asked to describe the incident (they may have acted differently with service buddies).

    I also remember the “old days” when (except for very formal occasions [and perhaps General Patton]) troops wore only the most important (top) 2-3 rows of ribbons (look at some of General Eisenhower’s WWII photos, as an example).

    • 8 KHorn

      That’s my experience too. My father was a WWII vet (Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf) and except when he was in the reserves and wearing his uniform unless you were a close friend or family, you’d never know he had those awards. While in quiet times on hunting trips he’d tell me the horror stories mostly he told the inevitable funny things that happened. Like the time he used the one Gaelic insult he new to get an Irish Guards private to get him a bottle of whiskey. My favorite was the time in Normandy when he and his men ambushed a command car and captured a Luftwaffe Major and his driver. The Major recognized my father as an officer and came over waving a map and screaming at him. Dad had a private who spoke German to translate and what the Major was noting was that his map had the latest intelligence and no U.S. troops were supposed to be here so they were clearly in the wrong place. Dad apologized, but politely noted he was still a prisoner

  4. 9 Joe in PNG

    Sometimes a valor thief is rather amusing if you let them talk, and have a bit of knowledge. This one dude started in with sitting on top of a thousand pounds of C4 that blowed up real good, and soon went into how he was about to head to central America to rescue a bunch of high school girls.

  5. 10 Stuart the Viking

    “And then we was snowed in the mountains, you’ve heard of the Donner party right? There we was, starving! Then Charlie died and Betty said that Charlie was a pig of a man and how she wished that Charlie was a real pig because she had the fixings for some stew if only she had some pork to go into it…. Next thing we knew, we were all eating each other and stuff. I even ate my own arm! Then we were rescued by St. Bernard with brandy casks under their chins.”

    “Really? You seem to still have both of your arms..”

    “Are you questioning a WAR HERO KID?!? I got metals so shiny they would burn out your retinas!”



  6. 11 MACV S-2

    Reminds me of the business building handyman that proclaimed to me and my two cycling buddies how his size had made him the perfect choice to be a tunnel rat. In NORTH VIETNAM! Cycling buddies were Marine NCO’s, one an E-6 EOD type, the other an E-5 Mortar Squad leader. We suggested he not re-tell that story. EVER. Found out later that he had scammed some elderly women in the nearby apartments with his tales of being “under cover” for a Federal agency and so far under they couldn’t find him to pay him, so please lend him some money. I worked for that agency and made arrangements for him to be visited by some real life 1811’s.

  7. 12 Nick

    Any time im mistaken for having served in the military I tell them thank you but I have never served I wish I could have but I was denied due to personal issues. I have an old Army Bdu jacket(digital camo) when I wear it some people have an issue and try to call me out on stolen valor and I tell them no im not since I never wear the name, rank, medals etc. I only ever wear the jacket with patches one American Flag and a 9/11 Memorial Patch I never take them off.

    People who intentionally wear a rank on a uniform and have every medal those people have stolen valor it is also illegal to impersonate anyone in the military and show rank on a uniform if your not in the military. I follow the laws that bind our country.

    We call it the Constitution but this act of deliberately impersonating a decorated service man/woman need to be put in check I can’t believe that people would willingly say they served in a war just for benefits im autistic and I didn’t fight nearly as hard as my parents to get me benefits for me.

    I will never understand why people do this but I think if they want to see what hell is like to get some of those medals and ribbons throw them into the deep end of the pool and show them how hard that a life in war can be I know I will never know but do I wish I could sure to serve my country that denied me my right to serve. I do not care how I die just that it was for cause larger than myself. Hope that one day this happens guess for now I will just have to wait and see.

  8. 13 Nancy Bushly

    My Father landed on Omaha Beach! The Germans picking them off , like a carnival game! He survived, barely! Thanks to a Jewish Surgeon! My father was only 18 years old! He suffered the rest of his life! Only a coward, liar and punk, who has never had to fight an enemy of our country, except in his mother’s basement on his xbox would minimize “Stolen Valor”
    Best Regards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: