My old field training officer (FTO), now friend and former Marine, once looked at a guy and said, “you ain’t got to lie to kick it.” This man was a never was. He was attempting stolen valor for sympathy in the face of an ex-Ranger and former Marine… not a great pair to try such a feat. To me, there are two types of stolen valor, a never was and an embellishment. The former can straight get fucked. The latter is what I am here to speak to.
Ladies and gents: you ain’t got to lie to kick it! My saying has always been, “Own what you did, nothing less, nothing more.” Be proud of the life you lived. Serving in the military puts you with only one percent of the population, depending on your generation.
When I first got out, I could spot most veterans, especially combat vets, from across the room. In conversations, I was always hesitant, but as soon as I knew they were legit, I immediately came out with, “Hell yea, I was a Ranger…” In most combat veterans this changed almost nothing, but I found in some people it changed the tone, the discussion, everything. For me, I was just happy to meet other veterans, people I could connect with. There was always something, combat or not, that just seemed to connect. I was friends with our supply guys, NBC, mechanics, cooks… All I ever gave a fuck about was what kind of person you were. That was it.
Over the years, I have buried my story. I have buried it deep in our conversations. I have applied all the techniques I once exclusively applied to the civilian world. I have learned that to some people my story is intimidating. For me, it has always been nothing more and nothing less than my experience. They were my choices, my experiences, and, to me, I was nothing in my world. I was a drop of water in an ocean of excellence. I considered myself nothing less than lucky enough to be among such people.
I know this approach may seem disingenuous, but I have found it is best to lie by omission to preserve a potential friendship. I have learned that some people will lie to compete in a competition I have no intention of attending. For the embellishers, my general approach is to lay out that my “give a fuck” meter is 0. If you were a cook, I love food and was glad not to cook. If you were supply, I wanted my shit and was delighted not to have to order it. If you were X, Y, or Z, I am glad you did, and I am glad I did not. As much as some people did not desire to be a combat MOS, I did not want to be anything else. It is as simple as that. I would ask that they come clean about it all, was this the first embellishment? Was this a trend? Was it used to get a job?
Over the years I have found that for most people it is a one-time lapse in judgment, but for some people, it becomes a trend. It was a way to get jobs, unearned prestige and admiration, and social acceptance. For those people, I have taken their unearned jobs, prestige, and social acceptance. It is not for a sense of pride but rather justice. It is a balancing of the scales. To embellish is almost worse than to lie because those who embellish know better. I would say, “Own what you did, nothing less, nothing more,” but I like my buddy’s phrase better, “You ain’t got to lie to kick it.” So, my parting words are simply this, “Own what you did, nothing more, nothing less, because you ain’t got to lie to fucking kick it.”
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.