The final category of military poser, the outright inventors, never served and usually have very little backstop to their tales of supposed service. They invent their military careers out of thin air, often on the spot, and consequently their stories tend to not survive first contact with anyone who knows anything at all about military service. As an example, I remember one time I was gassing up my truck outside of Fort Bragg, North Carolina when I was approached by a man in ragged clothes who reeked of both cigarettes and beer. He asked me for money “for food,” and when I refused, he tried to play the veteran card. “Come on man, I was in the Army too!” he claimed. “Cool story bro, what was your MOS?” I responded. He gave me a confused look. “MOS?” …and the encounter went downhill from there.
There can be hybrid posers; for example, an exaggerator who never made it out of basic training might become an elite fabricator courtesy of the Internet, and may be able to hide it all behind a mask of assumptions and on-the-spot inventions when questioned about his service. Hybrids can be notoriously difficult to spot, but fortunately they’re pretty rare. Unfortunately, sometimes they can get a lot of mileage out of fabricating, exaggerating, inventing, and letting people assume things about their military resume.
Generally, though, most real veterans can sniff out posers out pretty easily, and every veteran deals with posers in his or her own way. This can run the gamut from ignoring the poser, to public shaming, to making “funny cause it’s true” videos and cartoons, to straight up hostility. Take for example the recent viral video of a legit vet confronting a fake “Ranger” at the mall (there’s this, too Go Army, Beat Navy !). Unfortunately, the “summarized ass whipping” is not recognized as a legal course of action, so most of the time military posers do not get the punishment they so richly deserve. The Stolen Valor Act gave some relief, but important parts of it didn’t pass Constitutional muster and got overturned. So now it’s pretty much an open invitation for military posers, to include well-known celebrity actors like Shia LaBeouf, to carry on however they want.
Now that you understand what a poser is and is not, why does it even matter? Well, there are several problems with military posers. First and foremost, they are committing fraud. Every one of them. Being a veteran imparts certain prestige and confers certain benefits to which those who have not earned them are not entitled to partake. Falsely claiming military service, whether it is to get into someone’s pants or to get some other tangible benefit, is fraud and should be treated as such. The military is a values-based organization and integrity is a valued trait within the veteran community. We simply have no patience for liars.
There is a more insidious side to military posers as well. In addition to those who claim to be war heroes, we also have those who claim, for whatever reason, to be war criminals. The idiots at Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) promoted another idiot named Jesse MacBeth, who claimed, among other things, to have committed hideous wartime atrocities while serving as a Ranger in Iraq. Nor is MacBeth the only idiot to have confessed to fake war crimes. Unfortunately, these reports are used by those with anti-military and anti-U.S. agendas, including the very people we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, to attempt to cause harm to our veterans, our armed services, and our country. The veteran community takes this personally.
Finally, there is the sense of personal injustice that veterans feel when a poser claims credit for something he or she hasn’t done. Our accomplishments in the military are the things that we worked, bled, suffered, and for some of our brothers and sisters in arms, died for. We will be damned if we allow ANYONE to claim those same credentials undeservedly. I’m not going to explain it any further than that. If you worked HARD for something significant in your life, you understand what I’m talking about, and how veterans feel about impostors. If you haven’t, then you won’t get it and no amount of explanation will help. It’s enough to understand that as a rule, veterans love America and hate posers. And you should too.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on December 13, 2014.
Scott Faith is a veteran of a half-dozen combat deployments and has served in several different Special Operations units over the course of his Army career. Scott’s writing focuses largely on veterans’ issues, but he is also a big proponent of Constitutional rights and has a deep interest in politics. He often allows other veterans who request anonymity to publish their work under his byline. Scott welcomes story ideas and feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.