What is ‘Stolen Valor?’


By Thomas Ruyle

Stars and Stripes

Published: June 16, 2010

“Stolen Valor” is a term applied to the phenomenon of people falsely claiming military awards or badges they did not earn, service they did not perform, Prisoner of War experiences that never happened, and other tales of military derring-do that exist only in their minds.

Some phonies, with zero military experience, create their stories from whole cloth.

Others, having served an honorable but peaceful stint in the military, choose to embellish their records and “spice up” an otherwise unremarkable career.

Yet others, who are legitimate combat veterans – some of whom were decorated for bravery – also embellish an already-impressive military resume.

The common thread is that these folks are lying in public about their military service. It’s nothing new – there are stories going back many centuries of people boasting of their war record, and sooner or later are found to be lying.

In the United States, thousands of cases have been documented in recent years in which judges, politicians, celebrities, veterans’ group officials, antiwar activists, other prominent persons and average citizens have been exposed for lying about their military record.

Some of them simply boast of their fictional exploits. Others take it a couple steps further and don military uniforms and awards. Others go so far as forging government documents they use as “proof” of their stories. In a recent case in Texas, a young man claiming a Marine career – complete with combat tours and decorations – used forged paperwork to join the Army as a sergeant, even bypassing basic training.

While the phenomenon is most closely associated in the U.S. with Vietnam-era military fakery, many cases have sprung up in recent years with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; likewise, several fraudulent claims by World War II and Korean War-era “veterans” also have been exposed.

In my case I know an individual who is a retired E-7 and is a JROTC instructor. This individual wore a 1st PERSCOM patch on his ACU’s and is dumb enough to tell his students that it’s a 1 INF DIV Combat Patch. He says that he was in combat three times and that he shot a man in the face. He’s never been in combat. In fact, I know two individuals that went to Bosnia with him and know that this is BS. He has even been told by other instructors to take that patch off. A fellow instructor initiated an investigation and a 15-6 was done by cadet command. During the investigation the investigating officer even caught him with the patch on and instructed him to take it off. He appealed the investigation and for some reason, he’s not in trouble. This is ridiculous and if it is true that this poor excuse of a NCO is still a JROTC instructor, someone should do something. Ohh and BTW, 95% of his students are children of US Army Soldiers–which some are deployed right now. The JROTC mission is to teach young adults to become better citizens. To teach leadership and integrity. What kind of role model is this? I sure as hell would not want this retired soldier (I’m disgusted to even call him that) around my kids. The unauthorized wear of a combat patch is just one of many wrongful and inappropriate acts that this instructor has done. But, I’m just sharing my frustrating experience knowing a phony and loser who “stole valor” and fabricates false stories to high school students.

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