On Stolen Valour

There’s been a lot of press lately in the United States about politicians embellishing or outright lying about their military service, trying to make themselves sound like something they weren’t in order to look more “patriotic”, presumably.  This has always been something that fascinates me, and it’s interesting to see it become somewhat more high profile.  For some, the chain of lies unravels quickly and pathetically.

Sometimes – for example, if you’re Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, the lie isn’t even about your own service, it’s a claim about your family.  The fact that she created this story which requires a lot of dramatic license is despicable.  It’s nothing new though.  Ronald Reagan, that “great patriot” and “great President” (something I would disagree with) also was know to have embellished his military service, which never took him out of the United States during the Second World War.

My experience in dealing with this sort of thing has generally been the far more pedestrian “pub walts”, just pathetic souls in the bar who want to claim they’re something they aren’t.  They’re generally fairly easily outed, because they tend to talk a little too much, and then run into people like me who ask them rather simple questions that anyone who’s ever been in the military in any capacity would know.  It’s pretty funny when they choke on something simple.

There’s a lot more ominous stuff going around, some of what people claim is downright wrong and even disturbing.  There are a variety of legendary cases, from the master bullshitter James Shortt, to the sad and pathetic Alan McIlwraith.  Some may also have heard of the Mall Ninja, whose tales of mall security just got out of control – though I suspect Poe’s Law might have been in effect, and the writer was just making stuff up to be a troll.

Australia has had a lot of problems, apparently, with fake Vietnam vets, and in the USA there have been numerous cases of people claiming service they never did or grossly embellishing their service, for whatever reasons they might.  The Australians seem to have been the first to really organize on the internet to start outing fakes, and the UK has its amazing Waltenkommando organized by the Army Rumour Service website from which I bring you some of these links.

I’ve had direct experience with an internet walt only twice, both through a popular website for Canadian Forces members.  The first was a fraudster by the name of John Hill, a scammer whose various “disguises” included claiming some service of distinction in the Royal Marines.  We thought at the time he was building some credibility on our site to support his claims, and he was very good, not making wild claims, until he tripped up and was outed.  The second came from a gaming website, a user who was ex-military approached our military site, posting some screenshots about a user on his gaming site who was claiming to be a Canadian soldier – a Patricia and an a JTF2 operator no less.  We dogpiled the site pretty quickly shutting down every thread he posted to, and attacking him most strongly for using the image of an actual Patricia, Pte Robert Costall, who was killed in Afghanistan.

I’ve similarly seen a lot of airsoft-playing idiots who like to talk big as though they have knowledge of the military, in particular the horror of seeing some of them leave their playing field in their “uniforms” which look similar to current Canadian uniforms, and behave like complete morons in public – putting the real CF into disrepute potentially.

Actually, now that I think of it, there was one in Peterborough who came out to all sorts of events, but everyone knew he was a bullshitter and no one took him seriously – you couldn’t.  He was a fat, longhaired bastard who was a member of the local Legion branch probably just to have a cheap place to drink.  He took to sporting a green beret on parades with a Lorne Scots cap badge on it.  Now, I was never a “Horny Lorny”, but as they were the militia unit in my hometown growing up, I knew a little about them – for starters, that they wear green tam o’shanters, not berets, and secondly, they only wear them with a yellow primrose hackle.  In his case, though I just let it go because he wasn’t making any claims, just looked like an idiot.

I don’t have a problem with these people playing at soldiers in the privacy of some paintball field.  I don’t have any issue with re-enactor enthusiasts either, as they bring real history to life, and many of them are very well studied in the “art”, many are current or ex-military as well, and by recreating a bygone era, there’s no real chance they could be mistaken for the real thing anyhow.

I had an instructor once say something to the effect of people are either soldiers or want to be soldiers – or perhaps, more aptly, want to have been soldiers.  Even among soldiers there tends to be some medal envy, I know because I’ve slipped into it a bit and have been reminded that they don’t necessarily mean anything, and at the end of the day, I know that I put my hand up and stepped forward when there was a call to arms, that’s good enough for me at this point.

It strikes me that lying in general is a very bad idea when you’re a public figure – or when you aren’t – because in the case of this sort of thing, you’re going to get caught out for sure… but to try to claim some sort of heroism that you have no legitimate claim on is to me the most disgusting of human behaviour and it needs to be published soundly.


3 comments so far

  1. Chris. on

    I notice the Baron James Shortt receives a mention here.
    Readers may be interested to read that Jimbo still carries on with his sherard but mostly outside the UK these days, a recent search (8th June 2010)reveals that he has just headed a course in Turkey. Judging by the editorial he’s still making his claims being ex SF.
    As I write he is conducting a maritime security course in Malta to which he has absolutely no qualifications.

    • warriorbanker on

      Why yes, I couldn’t do a post on this subject without making reference to the Baron of Castleshortt. I actually learned after reading on a non-ARRSE site that there’s a bunch of videos on YouTube of him. What an utter wanker he is, even in these vids where he isn’t making silly claims about his non-existent services to humanity. I was happy to put in a mention for ARRSE – as a member of army.ca who’s seen the benefits of the efforts of the Waltenkommando I figure it’s worth mentioning!

  2. Chris on

    If may, this video ( stolen valor )was compiled by one of the ARRSE members,in the list alongside, are a few others that take the urine but I’ll refrain from spoiling this blog by posting them up also.

    Unfortunately in the UK stolen valour is not an offence, however there are those, including myself, who will continue campaigning to make it so.

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