The Three Sketchiest Things About “Military With PTSD” And Those “Please Be Courteous With Fireworks” Signs
by the Havok Journal Staff
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 4 October 2016. We welcome comments from anyone affiliated with “Military With PTSD” who would like to confirm or refute any aspects of this story. -editor
“Our office is committed to ferreting out and prosecuting all forms of corruption and fraud, regardless of who the offender is. In our nation, no one is above the law.”—U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley
Well, Mr. U.S. Attorney, challenge accepted. Here you go…
A very interesting thing happened after we recently re-posted our perennial wakeup call to the veteran community, “What Veterans Are Still Owed On the 4th of July.” As our regular readers will recall, this is the article we run every year around Independence Day to take aim at the “dysfunctional veteran” mindset that has infected our community, and urge our fellow veterans to stop thinking and acting as if our fellow Americans owe us something for our service.
To us, the ultimate manifestation of the dysfunctional, attention-seeking veteran movement is the proliferation of yard signs advertising words to the effect of, “Combat Veteran Lives Here: Please Be Courteous With Fireworks.” In fact, it has become so widespread that we felt we needed to write an article about it.
The thing we dislike most about the signs is that they are transparent attempts at self-aggrandizement. “If you don’t constantly remind everyone around you that you’re a veteran, were you ever really a veteran at all?” Additionally, the signs reinforce negative stereotypes about veterans, they further alienate veterans from the American populace, and they promote a victim mentality in veterans. These signs are the veteran community’s equivalent of social justice “safe spaces,” you know, the ones that we veterans are usually so quick to rail against.
The worst part about these signs is, they work.
When I say “they work,” I mean it in the sense of why people really put out the signs. The signs work to remind everyone who drives by that there is a veteran in the home, they reinforce a “victimhood” mindset, and they’re useful in bringing sympathy to the sign’s owner. They’re useless for just about anything else.
I take that back, they work if you’re trying to get attention or make money. And that’s where the “interesting thing” I mentioned in the opening paragraph comes into play.
We told you in our article Veterans, The Fourth of July, And Fireworks: Don’t “Be Courteous,” Just “Be American” that we would be bringing you more about the organization that produces and distributes those signs, “Military With PTSD” (MWPTSD). And we always keep our word.
When we published that “Fireworks” article, I expected we would be inundated with all kinds of people voicing their support of the organization, and its signs. After all, this organization claims to have spent tens of thousands of dollars to send thousands upon thousands of signs out to needy veterans. Surely, these vets would be grateful for the “free” signs that helped them so much, right?
The interesting thing is, the opposite has happened.
Instead of a wellspring of support for MWPTSD, we’ve been crushed with a massive influx of negative information about the organization and the people running it. We received so much documentation, and so many emails and Facebook messages, that we had to delay publication of this article in order to sort through it all.
In doing the fact checking and due diligence we normally do in association with an article like this, we found numerous instances of the veteran community calling out the signs, the MWPTSD organization, and the people who run it. In addition to us here at The Havok Journal, some of the biggest names in the “Veteran Lifestyle” community, including Ranger Up, Article 15 Clothing, Task&Purpose, BreachBangClear, GruntWorks, JTTOTS, This Ain’t Hell, and many others have written articles critical of the “Please Be Courteous” signs, the MWPTSD site, and/or its owners, Navy veteran Justin Gourley and his wife, author Shawn Gourley. The veteran crew at Art15 even went on an epic rampage about the signs and Justin Gourley during a recent Drinkin’ Bros podcast.
Why all the shade being thrown by the leading names in the veteran community, the very community that MWPTSD claims to serve? Well, let’s just say that based on the evidence we’ve received, there is a LOT that looks “sketchy” about MWPTSD as an organization, and the veteran-owned organizations listed above have reason for concern. Based on what we’ve seen, MWPTSD and the people who run it have some explaining to do.
And there is a lot that needs explaining: numerous documents, records, and testimonials indicate that something is potentially amiss in MWPTSD, and convincingly call into question the claims that the Gourleys have made about themselves, their organization, and the funds that they’ve received in support of it. But what is the most damning in my opinion is the Gourleys’ own words.
Before we start: “The Nonprofit Military With PTSD Is a Fraud”
One of the best sources of information on MWPTSD has been a Facebook page titled, appropriately enough, “The Nonprofit Military With PTSD Is a Fraud.” It’s a treasure trove of insight and evidence, largely provided by former administrators of the MWPTSD Facebook site. There are also statements from others, including former members of Justin Gourley’s unit in the Navy as well as the wife and mother of Gourleys purported “best friend” who also poked some serious holes in MWPTSD’s carefully-crafted public narrative.
In fact, there appears to be so much accumulated evidence of potential wrongdoing going on in this case that I can’t put it all into one article. But the evidence is there, and if a law enforcement agency is willing to action it, I’m sure any number of people will be willing to cooperate and provide evidence and testimony. The hard part, so far, is getting anyone to pay attention.
You should also check out MWPTSD’s own Facebook page. It’s an interesting mix of obfuscation, rationalization, half-truths, and muddled thinking. It is also frequently “taken down for maintenance” in order to scrub it of content that the Gourleys need to walk back, and comments from people calling them out on them. It’s also interesting to note that the Gourleys reportedly paid for “likes” on their Facebook page. This is misleading, but probably not fraudulent. On the other hand, Shawn Gourley admitted to fabricating several Facebook profiles (one of which may have been a purported “suicidal veteran”) and having fake conversations with them on MWPTSD’s Facebook page in order to increase the credibility of the site. Let that sink in: fake profiles… fake suicidal vet… on a site dedicated to helping veterans. Folks, in the veteran community it doesn’t get much “sketchier” than that.
There are a lot of things going on with MWPTSD, but in the interest of time I’m going to only concentrate on three. I’m calling them The Publication, The PTSD, and The Profits.
Take a look at the following pages. If we’ve missed something, or more importantly if something we’ve presented is factually inaccurate, please let me know. But if we’ve convinced you that there is in fact “something rotten in the state of MWPTSD,” share this story. And don’t just share it with your friends on Facebook; send it to your friends at the VA, the FBI, local and federal law enforcement, and your Congressional representatives. We’re at the point now where an investigation is not only a good idea, it’s necessary.
Alternately, if MWPTSD and/or the people who run it helped you, and you think they’re legit, I’d love to hear from you as well.
In the interests of presenting both sides of this story, I’m happy to allow the owners of MWPTSD, or one of their supports, to write a rebuttal to this article, which we will run right here in Havok Journal.
But I doubt one will be forthcoming.
At this point you might be wondering, “what are you trying to accomplish with this article? What’s one more sketchy veteran-related charity?” We’re calling for an investigation, and an accounting. Something sketchy is going on at MWPTSD, and it warrants a closer look. The problem is going to be getting someone to take this case on. It’s complicated. It’s convoluted. And it involves challenging a veteran’s claims of PTSD, something that has long been a sacred cow in our country.
But it needs to be done. There are too many questions, too many falsehoods. There is a lot of money at stake, and a lot of damage being done to the reputation of the veteran community. So who is going to step up to the plate and either clear the Gourleys once and for all, or to get justice for our veteran community?