How To Spot Stolen Valor
If you suspect someone is lying about their military service, casually invent a lie and see if they play along with it. Gush about a conflict related to where they say they served but use a fake location or a different time. If the guy’s a fake, he’ll go along with your lie.
Have you ever wondered about how to spot stolen valor? You know, when people lie about serving in the military when in fact they were sitting pretty at home? I have. Here's how to spot it.
People lie about military service for many reasons- to impress a girlfriend, to claim disability welfare, or just to get a kick out of being thanked for their service. This isn’t fair for the real people who actually did sacrifice for their country, or for their families, and these liars should be called out. So I looked up a few things and I’m going to share with you some tips about how you can spot these phonies.
How to Spot Stolen Valor Invent a LieIf you suspect someone is lying about their military service, casually invent a lie and see if they play along with it. Gush about a conflict related to where they say they served but use a fake location or a different time. If the guy’s a fake, he’ll go along with your lie because he won’t know enough to contradict you and he’ll be wanting to impress you. Then you’ll have him where you want him and you can tell him to stop lying.
Ask About Their RankAsk them questions like how long it took to make *insert rank*. If they’re lying they’ll give a wrong answer. You can juice it up by asking about a rank that is not indicated by their uniform, or just inventing a new rank! If they’re genuine they’ll politely correct you and you can both have a laugh about it.
They Insist on Secrecy“Don’t bother looking me up because my records are sealed”. A lot of phonies use this line to get out of being asked detailed questions about their service. Well, if their work was so secret that it’s not documented, why are they talking about it? If he was in a secret unit he would have been briefed to give a verifiable unit as his job. So red flag there. Also, while it is true that the work done by, say Special Operators, will never be made public, each of them has a DD-214 which can at least tell you what their job was.
They are VagueSome people claim to be war veterans but won’t tell you exactly when or where they served. Ask them specific questions. Of course, even real veterans can’t remember every single detail about their service, but they will remember significant dates, like when they joined a particular regiment, or when they were discharged. Also, they won’t have a problem with giving out this information, so if your guy gets offended he probably isn’t telling truth.
An example of a vague valor thief is Nathan Philips [https://connectingvets.radio.com/articles/how-spot-stolen-valor-cases-nathan-phillips] , who actually did serve in the Marine Corps, but misrepresented that he had served in the Vietnam War by saying in an interview that he served during the Vietnam times. This was interpreted by the interviewer to mean that he was a Vietnam War veteran, and he didn’t correct the error.
They ExaggerateSometimes veterans exaggerate stuff like injuries or lie that they were in a certain place. Maybe they did serve but they didn’t really distinguish themselves in a particular way, so they get a kick out of taking credit for something they didn’t do. Such valor thieves are hard to catch because they do know a lot about the military, and they have all the details they need to support their claim.
They can only be outed by people who served along with them. An example of this was American Idol contestant Matt Farmer [https://www.tvguide.com/news/american-idol-matt-farmer-lied-1060252/] , who had been in service but lied that he had got brain injury from an IED explosion. His fellow servicemen who outed him. He later apologized and claimed he had had a lying disorder since he was young and had come to believe in his lies.
Their UniformThe person’s uniform can give you a hint about whether he’s a phony or not. For example, he could be wearing a Navy insignia on his left sleeve and an army patch over his left pocket. That’s a fake. Or he may be wearing his name patch wrong. It should be on the right side, while the qualification patches should be on the left pocket or above it. Or, he could be wearing an enlisted man’s uniform with an officer’s cap.
They Brag a LotValor thieves like to be admired and thanked for their ervice’, so they won’t pretend to have been a typical run-of-the-mill soldier. No, they have to have distinguished themselves, and they will tell over the top stories about various exploits they did while in the army. Usually, they go overboard and you can usually bring them up short with just one comment or remark about an inconsistency in their story.
Too Many Ribbons, Too Many MedalsSome phonies wear a lot of ribbons and medals on their uniforms. Ask about them. “Wow, how did you get that?” and point to one of the ribbons. Most fakes like to brag a lot so they will probably tell some story about how they saved their platoons. You can catch them there.
They Confuse Different TermsValor thieves confuse different military terms. Your fake soldier will claim that boot camp was a nightmare, yet soldiers don’t go to boot camp. Or the fake marine will claim that basic training was fun, yet marines don’t go through basic training.
These are just a few pointers of how you can spot a valor thief, and the list could go on and on. One thing to remember is not to be too aggressive when asking questions about someone’s service in order to know whether they are lying or not. Some people experience trauma that prevents them from remembering certain details about their service, and digging in too deep may awaken bad memories. You don’t want that. Just use your eyes, ask friendly questions, and read between the lines.