Medal of Dishonor
POSTED: Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 10:21pm
UPDATED: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 4:07pm
Longview, Texas (KETK) — Fred Stuckey from Longview saw many men he calls brothers killed and maimed when he served as an army ranger in Vietnam, sacrifices he does not take lightly.
"We ended up losing 41 killed, and I knew a lot of them, I saw a lot of them die and, I'm not into letting people steal their smoke. People that are lesser men than them claiming to have done the same things," said Stuckey.
Stuckey is part of a number of veterans who try and expose these imposters.
"I just got to the point where I said I'm not taking this anymore, they're claiming to be somebody that they're not," said Stuckey.
"According to the US census that was taken a few years back, four out of five people that tell you that they were Vietnam vets are lying about it, that's how bad this problem is," said Don Shipley.
Shipley is a retired Navy SEAL senior chief who runs Extreme SEAL Training in Chesapeake Virginia.
he has also made it his mission to expose those who falsely claim to be seals.
He has created a YouTube channel which has nearly 40,000 subscribers.
On his channel, Shipley shows himself calling people who say they are SEALs, and featuring some in his Phony SEAL of the Week segment.
"I decided to take it to the internet, do what they're doing. If you're going to lie I'm going to tell the truth and jimmy crack corn I don't care what happens," said Shipley.
"The frauds and phonies that would misrepresent the military service are changing military history, and the truth has to be known or our future generations will never know what actually happened during the wars and conflicts that we fought," said Mary Schantag.
Schantag is the chairman of the POW Network.
It's based in Missouri and helps verify the authenticity of someone's military service.
"Our cemeteries are filled with honorable veterans who gave their life, and these guys just take that all away when they make the claims that they do," said Schantag.
False claims which jam up our already crowded Veteran's Affairs hospitals.
"There are fraudulent material used to make false claims within the VA system, we've got enough problems within the VA without allowing those into the system that have never served or are making false claims like POW captivity when they've never been in captivity. It's costing the taxpayers money and they should be prosecuted to the full extent the law allows," said Schantag.
"A lot of people turn a blind eye to it a little bit and it's a problem that doesn't concern them, right until tax time comes around and you are paying for fraudulent VA claims that are absolutely rampant," said Shipley.
But other than financial or medical perks, many imposters are merely looking for a social status boost.
"I think they want to hang around real men or something. I really don't know, but you can go to a gun show and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a wannabe," said Stuckey.
"It's called the hero syndrome, there's a past act of shame or cowardice in these guys' past that they're trying to overcome by turning into at least something respectable in other people's eyes," said Shipley.
But the overwhelming number of culprits are not civilians.
"Most phonies are actually veterans, they start embellishing but then again, they're doing it for a reason, just because you served in the military does not make you a pillar of society," said Shipley.
"If they actually served I just really can't understand why they're embellishing their record, because you know, if you served honorably, you were part of the big program. If you served honorably that's all I expected," said Stuckey.
"It does a tremendous disservice to our veterans that have earned these honors that they steal, and that's exactly what it is, which is why it's called stolen valor, they are stealing something from our veterans they have not earned," said Schantag.
Last year, president Barack Obama signed an amended version of the Stolen Valor Act into law, making it illegal for anyone to impersonate a soldier in order to have some financial gain.
"I'd like to see them being called out, I'd like to see jail time or community service. If people are doing it for their own personal gain, I want to see them go to jail like the laws says," said Stuckey.
"We used to tar and feather these guys and run them out of town on a rail," said Shipley
Which is why organizations, such as the POW Network exist.
"I know it takes time, I know it's an effort, but there is a team of individuals out here that are willing to do the work for them, if they get a hold of us we'll help any of them find out the truth," said Schantag.
Truth, which has been driving veterans like Stuckey to make sure the real heroes not only get the financial benefits they deserve, but the recognition that was earned,
Whether they are still alive, or among the 41 who died in his company and the countless others across history, who signed on the dotted line, to be an American soldier.
"If they stepped across that line and said, I'll serve, they're brothers," said Stuckey.
Schantag encourages everyone, before honoring or having a veteran speak at an event, to have their military career validated.
She says they hope every time they run a name through the database, it turns out to be a true veteran.
If so, she says buy them a cup of coffee, shake their hand, and know you are thanking a real hero, for his or her actual service.
To contact the POW Network go to their website: http://www.pownetwork.org/
For more information on Extreme SEAL Experience: http://www.extremesealexperience.com/