It was a snowy night in Prague. I bought a round of beers for my Ranger buddy and two Brits we had just met at the bar. One of the Brits decided to show me a small pin he had stuck inside his wallet.
“You know what that is?” he asked.
I knew what I was looking at. A SAS lapel pin.
“Special Air Service.”
“That’s right, mate.”
Curious, I bought the round of drinks and handed a beer to the Brit.
“I knew you would buy,” he told me. “Because you know who the better man is.”
This was getting weird, not to mention insulting. He was also getting slippery about specifics of his service.
“Where did you deploy?” I asked. My sniper partner and I had just gotten back from Afghanistan.
“Northern Ireland, mate. That’s all you need to know.”
Soon, he asked me to buy another round of drinks. Apparently, our SAS friend was a little strapped for cash.
“Buy your own fucking drink.”
Perhaps the most popular issue among veterans on social media and various military-themed websites is stolen valor. You know, those sad, pathetic pukes who throw on medals and pretend to be soldiers. That SAS poser in Prague is a good example. We all delight in exposing these frauds for what they are. We like to examine their photographs on Facebook and use our keen military insider knowledge of AR-670-1 to critique what is wrong with their uniforms. Then we like to continuously point out how stupid these people are.
But it doesn’t stop there. Not to be deterred in our search for the faux soldiers and with our insatiable desire to expose stolen-valor cases—we always need fresh meat for the grinder—we start turning on each other. Veterans are in such a hurry to “out” people they suspect of stolen valor, they take to social media and accuse real veterans of being fakers. We’ve seen this happen over and over again where veterans jump the gun, acting like keyboard commandos suffering from small-penis syndrome.
I actually respect many of the websites and individuals out there who expose stolen valor. Military frauds can do real damage to people. Using fraudulent credentials, they get hired for jobs they are not qualified for. Some of them lure in unsuspecting women with their fake war stories. Their stupidity in public can make actual veterans look like idiots. Some of these fakers even collect money for their fake military charities for personal enrichment. These are perfectly good reasons to call bullshit on the bullshitters.
What I find disturbing is that many veterans seem to have nothing better to do than troll the Internet looking for stolen valor. When they don’t find it, they find legitimate veterans that they have an issue with and start attacking them. As one friend told me, “We don’t have a war to fight anymore, so it is like we fight each other instead.” Take, for instance, the pissing contest between Michael Hawke and Joe Teti. Ultimately, this fight isn’t about stolen valor, it is about a perceived loss of business opportunities in the entertainment industry. Stolen valor is just the window dressing, but the public doesn’t know that.
Eating our own is something we do very well, especially in the Special Operations community.
At the end of the day, I give not a single fuck about stolen valor. As the editor-in-chief of SOFREP, I made a deliberate editorial decision that we would talk about the issue of stolen valor only occasionally, and only when warranted. Call me crazy, but I think that the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq are a little more important.
What actual American soldiers are doing is much more important. I think writing about what our friends in Denmark’s Jaeger Corps, Poland’s GROM, and Australia’s Commandos are doing in the War on Terror is a bit more important than some goofy asshole who throws on some Special Forces patches on his jacket.
Do you know why I don’t care about stolen valor?
Because I have a life. You could work 24/7 trying to track down stolen-valor cases; that is how prolific these clowns are. The question you have to ask yourself is, is it worth your effort? Don’t you have professional and personal goals to meet in life? If I spend all my time writing about stolen valor, do you know what I’m not writing about? Real soldiers. I’ll be damned if I’m going to write about fake soldiers when I can write about real ones—some of them quite heroic.
The fake CIA-SEALs like Jamie Smith can say whatever they like, but it won’t take away a single thing that I, or any of my teammates, accomplished during our military service. Our actions speak a hell of a lot louder than the bullshit on the Internet.