As much as watching every Humpty Dumpty to ever play Call of Duty throw on a uniform and commit Stolen Valor might bother me, I honestly don’t really get that worked up about it. In most of these cases, it seems like there is some clear mental health issues going on and I have neither the time nor inclination to walk about the street diagnosing the average nutcase. Unfortunately from time to time, a genuine veteran will get called out for Stolen Valor with unfortunate consequences and I write about this in my article titled, Before you Beat me Up For Stolen Valor Please Read This. But I think what bothers me more than anything in the entire Stolen Valor universe are real veterans lying about their own service. To me, these guys are just the absolute worst. The above picture you see is members of my squad sitting on a berm at a Kuwait airfield waiting from the trip into Iraq, but you can’t see the faces so I’m guessing some stolen valor vet will pick it up and say its him.
Stolen Valor Might Help This Blog
I have no doubt that if I were a special operator, highly decorated veteran, or perhaps if I even had the ability to grow a beard without gaps in it that this blog might be a little more popular. It’s fine, I don’t mind you admitting that is the case as we often like to hear from those who have seen the most and done the most. But I am not exclusively a Veteran blogger and I’ll write about most anything absurd. Instead, you are getting the whimsical musings of a Marine infantry reservist who served one fairly benign deployment to Iraq in 2003. I do have a combat action ribbon as there was a little pew here and there, but for post-invasion 2003 Iraq, there was simply very little pew to go around in my area of operations.
Because I got out when I returned from Iraq in 2003, for the longest time I wasn’t even sure if I had a combat action ribbon and it was in fact only due to this blog that it was confirmed by my battalion commander and platoon sergeant. You see, when you take off the uniform for good and you’re not walking around with the medals and ribbons on your chest all you have are your experiences. And to be honest, I’ll take the actual experiences I had over ribbon, the applaud of others, or freaking 10% discount at Trader Joes. When it comes to trading my real experiences for a false ribbon, I’m more like Ivan Drago screaming to the Soviet public saying, “I fight for me, for me!”
So that’s what I don’t get about actual veterans who commit stolen valor. Why would you want the accolade or recognition without the experience? That’s like coming home after a 15-month deployment and having your wife introduce you to your one-month-old son and you act like so proud. Raising a child is a lot of hard work as I’m learning times three, but, at least, I got to make all three of them. I don’t sit around in a crowded shopping mall pointing to other people’s babies and telling my friends, “yeah, I made that baby.” I like the process of making a baby more than the imaginary one of pretending to make other people’s babies. Speaking of, if my wife is reading this blog later tonight, as she often does, what do you say we put the kids to bed early tonight?
Veterans Stealing Valor is Insulting
To be clear, I’m not saying that veterans stealing valor are insulting us all, though you could easily make that case. Rather, when a veteran steals valor he is really just insulting his own experience that was just fine before he started dabbling in it. I’m proud of what I did in Iraq and not ashamed of what I didn’t get to do, nor disproportionately proud of what I was simply lucky to experience. My older brother who was an active duty Marine served in the late 90s and he used to give me all sorts of heck for the fact that I was a reservist. But fast-forward to 2003, and this reservist has a combat deployment while he does not and Thanksgiving has been a lot more fun since.
The truth is, apart from a very select few who throw themselves into the fray of units where combat action is a certainty, none of us control our deployment schedule or what we see. There are countless Marines who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan kicking rocks because they didn’t pick up a combat action ribbon while they were there. But I’m pleading with you, don’t insult your own experience by claiming to have what you do not. When I look at a Marine who was burned over most of his body and is perhaps missing limbs, I am humbled to think that we both have a combat action ribbon just the same. I am proud of what I did, but let us not kid ourselves into believing that every ribbon of the same name has the same experience to back it. It is the experience, not the resume that has value and merit.
There has been a rash of public figures falsely representing their military service lately. The most recent one was a campaign manager for Ted Cruz’s campaign who apparently falsely represented his experience even to the point of posting a picture on Facebook claiming it was post- mortar attack. The only problem is that the picture was not even of him. Why would you do that? Claiming to experience the apprehension and danger of a mortar attack you did not experience is like claiming a baby from a woman that you didn’t even get to get it on with. Life lesson: Getting it on is always more fun than lying about getting it on.
What Did you Do in the Great War?
I won’t get into naming names of Stolen Valor here as I truly believe that should be left up to the experts and you can head on over to Stolen Valor for a piece of their good work. There are lots of post-9/11 veterans of all sorts of colors, ranks, and experiences. No one has any obligation to be ashamed of what they didn’t do if they served and simply did their part. The rest is simply not up to us and I’m a grown man who doesn’t need other people’s approval to feel proud. I do need you to actually sign up for my email list above so that you can get article notifications directly to email and help me get around this whole Facebook censorship limiting reach stuff, but I don’t need your pity or approval. No seriously so sign up for the email list as you only get article notifications, nothing else. But let’s wrap this thing up with a little Patton because why not?
It’s one thing to be sitting in a bar drinking with your buddies and claiming there were dozens of Insurgents firing at you from a rooftop when it was more like two hadjis and a donkey doing the spray and pray. I won’t do that, but if you exaggerate a nuance of your story it is hardly criminal and probably more common than we think once the liquid memory starts flowing. But if you weren’t there just say you were not there, it’s no big deal. In the famed Speech given by George C. Scott at the opening of the movie Patton, he conveys that his men stepping into combat won’t have to say they shoveled sh*t in Louisiana during the Great War. But take it from me, stirring sh*t mixed with diesel in Iraq is hardly more glamourous, but if that is all you did then so be it. Real Veterans who steal valor are just the worst and I’m sticking to it. All any of us have when moth and rust destroy our accolades are the real experiences. Treasure those and you will be just fine.