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Stolen Valor: Why the Conviction of Bowe Bergdahl Matters to Veterans

It’s not that I truly care what happens to Bowe Bergdahl. As far as I am concerned, playing hide the pickle with the Taliban for 5 years certainly seems like punishment enough for walking away from your post in the middle of a war. I’m sure he falls asleep at night to the sounds of the Taliban asking him if he can squeal like a goat. What they did to him in 5 years is likely worth 20 in the American prison system. After all as they say, play stupid games and win stupid prizes. That being said, I do believe America did the right thing in exchanging some prisoners to get him back. I know, I know, we gave up some Guantanamo trash in exchange for what appears to be a piss poor soldier. However, if we are a nation of innocent until proven guilty and we do indeed when at all possible never leave a man behind then this was the right call. Bowe Bergdahl deserved to come home, but the man also deserves justice. Not just for me and you, but for the great lineage of American history he represents. Or in this case failed to represent. That matters to me, it matters to you and it might be why you see fellow veterans calling for justice. On a side note, if you intend to tarnish America’s military tradition don’t take a douche pipe picture while deployed. Just don’t. 

The Real Stolen Valor

First things first, we unfortunately have to go over a few definitions here. Stolen Valor is of course a person posing as a military service member when they are not. Stolen Valor is an actual veteran posing as a Navy SEAL or Space Marine when they in fact were the admin guy at IPAC who screwed up your pay. The manner in which one can steal valor is diverse as the stars in the heavens, but make no mistake that Stolen Valor matters.

Next we have to clarify what is and is not Stolen Valor. Some douche POG veteran with a cell phone camera harassing a mentally handicapped man for wearing cammies is not Stolen Valor. That’s called being a dick. However, the organization Guardian of Valor investigating a person, veteran or not, ripping off Gold Star widows or dishonoring our heritage because cammies are $15 bucks at the military surplus store is Stolen Valor. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the good people at Guardian of Valor have become so good at what they do the name Stolen Valor has become synonymous with them.

Kind of like when you say you need a Kleenex, but the brand could be anything far from an actual Kleenex. Or you say you want to Google something and then go to Ask Jeeves to search for it. No idea if Ask Jeeves is around, flashback for my 90’s people. Guardian of Valor is an organization of professionals who take their job seriously to preserve our generation’s integrity of military history. Because you realize that right? We veterans are but stewards of the rich military tradition handed down. No, I don’t care if some civvie gets 10% off his purchase at Home Depot because he claims to be a veteran. Yes, I do care about a man misbehaving in front of the enemy and getting his brothers in arms killed.

War Ain’t Hard

That might seem like a counter-intuitive statement, but to walk away an honorable veteran is actually not that hard. Just do your job and you don’t even have to do it that well. I am a US Marine Veteran of Iraq, I do have a Combat Action Ribbon but I am here to tell you that if a movie was made about my unit it would be a comedy long before it was an action movie. When you hear that snap and crack of a bullet flying overhead in your direction it doesn’t take a lot of skill to realize you should shoot back. Shoot at me and I’ll shoot at you back is my personal mantra. Let’s take young Blythe below from Band of Brothers.

If you know the series, you know that Blythe and were were not quite made for one another. Something in him seem to struggle and yet, he did his job. Myself, I’m about as an Unprecedentedly Mediocre Marine as he was a soldier. I did my job, but had not desire to pick up a Medal of Honor doing so. I assure you were I to earn a Medal of Honor jumping on a grenade that I tripped. While I might not earn a Medal of Honor myself, I’d be happy to step back and let you earn yours with an extra push. Kidding, sort of , I don’t know. War in of itself is a grueling business, but once you are there the rest just kind of happens regardless of what you do. Do your job and may the odds be ever in your favor. But here is what we can’t allow and I get angry every time I watch this clip.

Oppam of course was the fully armed dude standing in the stairwell while his buddy got stabbed. Were there a cat next to me I would kick it and I’d shatter my finest glass of whiskey against the wall if I were holding it. What you just saw above is inexcusable and regardless of how the movie tried to make Oppam seem relatable at the end he does not get to claim the same valor as those who did their job. What Bowe Bergdahl did was basically what you saw there. It was the latter and that’s why it angers veterans so much. It really wasn’t that hard for Bowe to do his job and yet, he failed, our brother’s died as a result and he better make up a fake name were he to go for a drink at the local VFW. Meanwhile, Blythe is welcome all day long.

History Demands We Steward Valor Well

Kyle Carpenter, Dakota Meyer and myself all have the same number of Combat Action Ribbons. Yet, two of those three wear Medals of Honor around their necks and I have a cool story about how on a night patrol when a Haji approached us we all aimed our IR lights on the dudes crotch. It was funny. Can you tell the difference? If we do not tell the accurate and honorable story of our military heritage it dishonors the definition of valor itself.

Men like Carpenter and Meyer get to define valor. Men like Bowe Bergdahl get to nothing but represent its contrast. Men like Ben Wilson who rose from a stretcher on the frozen hills of Korea and took on the enemy with an e-tool get to define valor. Men like Bowe Bergdahl represent a different camp. Donald Blythe deserves his spot among as an honorable veteran. Bowe Bergdahl deserves his seat next to Benedict Arnold and Corporal Oppam. That we define and distinguish the two matters. It wasn’t hard for Bowe Bergdahl to do his job and he didn’t even have to do it well. Every veteran knows that and that’s why his proper classification in the halls of military history matters.

This is why what Guardian of Valor does matters to us all. If some douche boot with a cell phone camera wants to come question me about my service I’ll tell him politely to go have intercourse with himself. If the good people at Stolen Valor want to vet my claims as a veteran writing about military matters they are more than welcome. It’s easy to rip off the genuine valor in the age of the internet and we need professionals stewarding that valor.

A Call to Action

Guardian of Valor is actually in the process of building a platform so that they can expand and sustain their work to steward this generation’s definition of valor and service. Contrary to popular belief, they are not a non-profit and nor do they charge for their services. These are people who know and care about history enough to fill this void so that boot McBooterton doesn’t try to question everyone with a mesh Veteran’s hat.

On Veteran’s day they are launching their coffee brand Grounds of Valor to sustain this effort. More than another veteran brand, this is coffee with a purpose. Coffee with a mission to steward the definition of valor into the future. That it tastes delicious, perks you up in the morning and helps you go poo, well that’s just a fringe benefit. Launching on Veteran’s Day, I encourage you to go check out Grounds of Valor and follow them on social media.

Each bag comes with a story of valor from military history and as you sip your cup of Joe you can take comfort that some genuine poser causing real harm to our military tradition is being exposed. You’ll realize reading the stories that whatever battles you may face that day it pales in comparison to what men of valor faced in history.  Yes, this is another veteran brand but make no mistake my friends this is coffee with a purpose, mission and historical relevance. Stolen Valor matters and men like Bowe Bergdahl prove exactly as to why.

If your civilian friends are struggling to understand why you keep raging against good ole Bowe, just share this and remind them of the lineage of history that gets to define valor and service. It wasn’t hard Bowe, that you couldn’t pull it off is your shame. I’ll personally forgive you, but I’ll not let you define service or valor with your actions. Valor matters and were you to take credit for any aspect of your service you defile the term. May it never be. Donald Blythe can, but Corporal Oppam can’t. It really is that simple.

If Corporal Oppam Makes You Want to Kick a Cat Like the Unprecedented Mediocrity Page Below

Jeff Edwards

One Comment

  1. A true and honest Veteran does not have to wear cammies or leathers with patches and bush hats.A bullshit alarm always goes off when I see that. Vietnam ,class of 69. As for as Bergdahl he is a ruined man no matter how many years he spends in prison,turn him loose to be scorned by the public.

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