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Exposing the Posers

Commentary by your Webmaster
C. Douglas Sterner
October 1, 2003

Recently I received a rather irate email from a gentleman who had been accused in a chat room of being a "poser"...a phony veteran.  In his email he stated something to the effect that, "I am contacting you to find out if this guy (accuser) is part of your organization, as I know that the purpose of your organization is to find and expose phonies."

That email really rubbed me wrong.  Quickly I responded that there is NO ORGANIZATION--that is simply a one-man project, and that our purpose is NOT to find and expose phony veterans or phony heroes.  From the day I launched this site nearly five years ago I've had but one purpose: 
          To preserve and share the stories of our TRUE heroes.  

Though that goal and purpose has never changed, unfortunately, much of my work over the last couple of years has been related to exposing phony Medal of Honor recipients and fraudulent claims to other high awards (DSC, Navy Cross, AFC) or prisoner of war status.

Quite frankly I would have much preferred to leave this dirty work exclusively to someone like B.G. Jug Burkett whose book Stolen Valor has done much to restore integrity to the term "Vietnam Veteran", or to FBI Agent Tom Cottone whose pursuit of phony Medal of Honor recipients is legendary.  Quite unwillingly I've been pushed into joining their efforts simply by doing what I wanted to do, recording the history and exploits of our true heroes.

Several times each month I get emails from someone wanting to know why their husband, or father, or grandfather, or uncle--is NOT listed as a Medal of Honor recipient (or recipient of other high awards.)  In most cases I am regaled with accounts of that loved-one's exploits of valor; stories that have been told in the family time after time.  One such account, related by a man claiming the Air Force Medal of Honor, was that he was shot down over North Vietnam, taken to the Soviet Union as a POW where he escaped and stole a M.I.G., which he then flew to safety to land on an American aircraft carrier.  (Seems quite similar to a movie I saw once.)

I fear that the prevalence of such war stories, the fraudulent claims to awards never earned, and the claims of war service by people who often never even wore a uniform has created a sad situation that requires a careful balancing act.

On one hand, I've noticed myself become cynical to the point that if I am not careful I could easily offend a true veteran and genuine patriot.  The pursuit of phonies when it is one's primary objective can create a mindset in which one seeks to prove every story, always looking for the villain lurking around the corner.  To do so is to short-change all who have served.  I believe it is important to accept our fellow veterans at their word without a constant effort to "check them out."  No veteran should ever have to prove himself.  He or she has already done that.

On the other hand, when something is amiss, it is every veteran's responsibility to expose the phonies who steal from all of us.  I regularly receive emails about individuals wearing awards, or even claiming a Medal of Honor, from persons who want to verify but don't want to confront.  "This guy is a real nice guy and an important person in our community, so I don't want to stir up trouble.  I just want to find out if he really ________."

Regardless of how nice a person may be or who influential they are in the community, a THIEF is a THIEF.  Anyone who steals an identity that is false should be promptly reported and exposed for the liar they are.  Doing that is every veterans responsibility.


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I agree one hundred percent. These phonies should be exposed and made to feel ashamed of themselves for what they have done to deceive people. I myself have read Burkett's book and own an autographed copy of it. Reading that truly opened my eyes to how people will stoop so low to claim to be someone or something that they are not. It is enough to make you sick. This is why I show true reverence to the legitimate heroes and high award recipients and contempt and disgust to those who would attempt to destroy and smear their reputations as true American heroes.
Tim Weiler <>
Elgin, IL USA -
I want to applaud you for your work and effort in memorializing our nations hero's. I servered in the peace time Corp and have the utmost of respect for those who have served in times of war, from WWI to Vietnam to present day conflicts. I have nothing to say about those who choose to take credit for the sacrifice of others. God will deal with them in his own time and way. I am fairly new to your site but have been reading it faithfully since I first found it (much to my boss's annoyance). Keep up the hard work and dont let those who choose to impersonate our hero's keep you from your duty. Those who steal the honor of others know who they are and they must live with themselves. Thank you. Semper Fi. USMC
Mesquite, Tx USA -
Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. If someone didn't get the medals they deserved to get and wears it anyway, who cares. They are not hurting anyone, just exaggerating a little. We all exaggerate some.
George Avilla
Phoenix, AZ USA -
In Response to those who think that wearing a medal that is unauthorized is okay and who cares; well all I have to say is this. SOMEONE DOES CARE. That someone is the person who EARNED the RIGHT to WEAR the MEDAL. See, that is the problem today, we do not want to call a liar, a liar because it might offend someone, well if you ain't earned it, don't wear it. If you wear it and ain't earned it then be ready to earn it!!!! Problem read back a couple of sentences and start over. Thanks for the beautiful website. It is much appreciated by folks who EARNED what the wear. God Bless the USA and our troopers overseas who are putting freedom in free each and ever day for us. Rangers, Lead the Way! Nam
MIke Namorato <>
Rochester, NY USA -
I agree. We have a guy here in Texas who has done a lot to catch and prosecute guys who say they are veterans who aren't or who wear metals the don't really hve.
John DeVries
Austin, TX USA -
I have a growing collection of U.S. armed forces medals. No MOH, because it's against the law-not even my country's laws, but hey- I respect that law. ALL my medals are of brand new manufacture: I firmly believe that original servicemen's medals should be cherished in a servicemen/woman's family circle or in a museum. In fact, I wouldn't mind these being banned on eBay altogether. Heroism is not something you should sell on eBay! Not your average collector...
I sure as hell wouldn't even consider actually wearing any of these medals! Democracy is the highest and noblest form of governing a nation. The ultimate form of serving Democracy is fighting for it. Medals earned in doing so, are outward symbols of a nation's gratitude. I invite any one to stop for a moment and think about this. Then try telling me that posing as a hero is just an "innocent " petty crime. IT IS NOT! U.S. Laws are way too soft, and in fact non-existent. There's work there to be done!

Koen Van Parijs EMAIL: koekie(at) : Zelzate, Belgium

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