Daily Items

 

Topic Participation and Valor Fraud
Date 26-Feb-2012

 

The recent publicity surrounding the Stolen Valor Act and the Supreme Court review of its constitutionality certainly makes you wonder about the size of the problem the law is trying to contain.  The Stolen Valor Act is focused on fraudulent claims regarding acts of valor and valor medals, but the problem is much larger.  Claiming to have participated in some well known event, for example, The Battle of the Bulge, or The Battle for Iwo Jima or similar; or even just claiming to be a vet, would not be done unless the claimant was trying to get something -- if nothing other than attention and adoration.  The problem appears to be growing because military service and being a vet are highly honored in our society at the present time (not always true).

A while ago I investigated one of these "participation claims" that sounded a bit strange and concluded that the claim was fraudulent.  What I did not expect to find was that the size of the problem was much larger than I thought.  I found numerous estimates including some approaching 50%.   That number is hard to believe, i.e. that half of all such claims are bogus ... I suspect that the number is much bigger than most people think.  A few interesting statistics (quotes from various sites; no verification of these numbers has been done)

  • VeriSEAL.org, an organization that verified the backgrounds of Special Operations Forces personnel, exposed more than 35,000 phony Navy SEALS.  Pretty amazing because since 1947 only 11,000 men actually graduated from the SEAL training program, and its predecessor, the Underwater Demolition Team. In other words, there are three times as many wannabes as actual SEALs.
  • The POW Network has already exposed 1,400 fake Vietnam prisoners of war. This is another astounding number, because only 660 U.S. servicemen actually were prisoners in Vietnam and came out alive. Again, more phonies than true heroes.

Some fraudulent claims are actually believed to be true by the claimant.  Over time their recollection of "the facts" becomes fuzzy and heroes are born.  In some cases, fraudulent claims are made because of ignorance about the award.  Many stories in the media claim that individual Tuskegee airmen won the Congressional Medal of Honor.  In fact, the unit was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal; but it is not too hard to understand how the "facts" got a little screwed up.

Below are links to a few of the web sites that are involved in ferreting out the frauds

Home of Heros

Military Imposters page from the pownetwork.org

False Medal of Honor Claims



WW2HCQ: What was the name of the Fort Lauderdale man who wore his unearned Medal of Honor for 10 years while speaking at functions, marching in parades and reviewing ROTC troops?
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