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Fake war heroes

By George S. Kulas
web posted February 23, 2004

They have always been around but they seem to come out of the woodwork in droves during and after every war. They are fake warriors who dishonor and depreciate the legitimate accomplishments of those who served and sacrificed for our country. They are family members who, to satisfy their own fragile egos, lie about the accomplishments their loved ones have made in the service thereby diminishing the extraordinary efforts and heroism of those who truly earned it.

Some wannabes are easy to detect. For example, recently I met a young fellow who looked about twenty-five and was all decked out in camouflage clothing and sporting a U.S.M.C. hat. He talked about how he had just gotten out of service as a gunnery sergeant after having served four years with the Rangers in the Marine Corps. Knowing that it takes approximately 10 years to make gunnery sergeant and that the Rangers are elite troops in the Army not in the Marine Corps I called him on it. He became very belligerent and insisted that he was who he says he was. Being an older fellow I decided to let him and his story be until he runs into a young Ranger or Marine who will no doubt change the story for him.

Another example of a fraud doesn't involve a service man or woman but instead a parent. This parent is a wannabe parent of a super hero instead of settling for being a proud parent of a proud serviceman. Bobby's son joined the Air Force a few years ago as an enlisted man in a non-combat non-flying status specialty. However, according to Bobby, his son was quickly re-trained and off on classified missions normally conducted by elite forces such as Delta Force, the Navy SEALS, the Army Special Forces, Marine Force Recon etc. The first change of assignment for Bobby's son took place just after PFC Jessica Lynch was rescued from the hospital in Iraq. According to Bobby his son was now being re-trained in highly classified search and rescue missions where he would be instrumental in extracting service men and women who were found in hopeless situations such as POWs, downed pilots etc.

I found it hard to believe, to say the least, that a lower enlisted Airman would, in a couple of months, be trained for such missions where others in the elite forces would require years of training. However the kicker came not long after the kid supposedly completed such exhausting training and right after Saddam Hussein was captured. According to Bobby his boy was now being re-trained yet again! Bobby boasted that his boy was now on orders for interrogation and language training after which he would be reporting to Iraq where he would most likely be assigned to a team to interrogate the one and only Saddam Hussein. I have golfed with Bobby and now I know why he always insisted on keeping the scorecard.

Why do people lie about service in the military? B.G. "Jug" Burkett co-author of Stolen Valor: How The Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History has studied the phony war hero phenomenon. He feels some fakers are compulsive liars who convince themselves that their lies are true. He believes most fakers are trying to boost their weak egos but some have other reasons such as winning political office, or improving their image. Burkett says it's rare, even when confronted, that fakes will come clean they simply want to believe it themselves.

There is substantial documentation proving that military frauds and fakes are an epidemic on a national scale. A group called AutheniSEAL has researched reports of impostors who have claimed to have been SEALs. Thus far over 10,000 fakes have been uncovered. The POW Network operated by Chuck and Mary Schantag out of Skidmore Missouri has documented over seven hundred cases of phonies claiming to have been POWs in Vietnam. That's more than the total that were finally released from captivity in 1973.

The fighting in Iraq continues and hopefully soon all our brave fighting men and women will return home. Unfortunately, as is always the case, as the true heroes return many more impostors surface with tales of their heroic exploits during war. Be on the alert for the wannabes, fakes and impostors. The slimy creatures continue to seep out of the woodwork.

If you think you have discovered a military fake you can file a Freedom of Information Act request by writing to: NPRC, National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave. St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.

George S. Kulas is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major who now lives in Wisconsin.

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