A short time ago, Tom McCourt wrote an excellent article on Stolen Valor. If you missed it, it was in the Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010 issue of the Sun Advocate. It is worth getting a back issue or reading it online.
Briefly stated, "Stolen Valor" refers to the large number of people claiming to have served in Vietnam and other conflicts, when in fact they were never there. As Mr. McCourt points out this means four out of five people that say they were in Vietnam were never there. Slightly over 2 million Americans served in Vietnam, but over 13 million claimed to be Vietnam veterans on the 2000 census. During the Vietnam war period, only 9 million men and women served, including those that were in the US, Asia, Europe, etc. and never went to Vietnam.
Sadly, the courts have ruled that this is free speech, meaning that these liars and cheats can lie about their veteran status and awards on resumes or to their girlfriends and others. There is not much we as individuals can do about the court ruling, but we can do our part by exposing them for the sleazes they are.
How do you check a Veteran's status and record? The simplest is the DD Form 214 which is issued to every serviceman and servicewoman upon discharge. It lists the duty titles, major schools and awards they received, as well as their dates of service and the character of service (Honorable, Dishonorable, etc). Regardless of what someone might tell you.... There is no such thing as a classified or secret DD Form 214. We all have one.
If you are an employer, and a job applicant lists a veteran status on their resume, you should ask to see their DD 214. If they don't have one, something is not truthful on their application. Do you want a liar and cheat in your cash register or dealing with your customers?
If your boyfriend tells you he was a SEAL or something, ask to see his DD 214. Even though most SEAL missions are highly classified, the fact that he was a SEAL is indicated on the DD 214. Also, you can ask him what his BUD was. All former SEALS can recite their BUD number and date. If he gives you a blank look, then something may be amiss. If he was an Airborne Ranger; Air Force Special Operator, etc. That will also be listed. If not...ask yourself, "Do I want to be in a relationship with someone that lies about this?"
All military medals and awards are listed on the DD 214. The details of why they got the award may be classified, but the title (Silver Star, Bronze Star, etc.) are always listed. (Administrative Awards such as Officer of the Year; NCO of the Quarter; etc. are not listed) Major schools are also listed, as well as other agency training programs. Sometimes military personnel are sent to schools conducted by state agencies; FBI, NASA and others. Minor courses are not listed. (Some DD 214s issued before the 1950s may not list some courses).
Virtually all veterans are proud of their military service and will be happy to show you their DD 214. If they have lost their copy, a duplicate can be ordered from the archives at the National Record Center.
You may ask "how bad can a little lie be?" Well, it is not a little lie. Throughout history our veterans have given their service in wartime. To have someone steal their honor is truly "Stolen Valor". To give you a snapshot of what Vietnam was about, I recommend you read Tom McCourt's outstanding book entitled "To Be A Soldier" After you read the book, ask yourself "is it really just a little lie?". When you read what life was like in Vietnam, you realize what an atrocity it is to claim you were there, when you spent your time in the United States or was never in the service. This is not meant to demean your service if you never went to Vietnam. Everyone was "eligible" to go and the government selected some and did not select others. You also did your duty and be proud of it. The troops in Vietnam would never have survived if it wasn't for the support forces in the States, and our nation would have been in deep trouble without the forces on front lines of the cold war in Berlin, the Korean DMZ, sitting in a missile silo, airlifting food and supplies, etc.
Be proud of your service... just don't claim someone else's.
When you lift up a rock and let the sun shine in, all the bugs and creepy things scurry for cover. By exposing these liars and cheats is the best way to protect the reputations and honor of those that have served. Public humiliation and embarrassment is the sunlight that will send these creepy people scurrying for cover.
(Bill Gigliotti is a professional speaker and Vietnam veteran living in Price)