You just don’t know for sure in MOST cases unless you’ve been to BUD/S and served in the Teams…


The ONLY 100% way to ever know for sure if someone was a SEAL or not is to verify them through a SPECWAR Insider, a SEAL Verifier like myself or a verification from the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California Public Affairs Office.

No grainy old photos with the “That’s me WAYYY in the back of the picture.” No SEAL plaques on the wall bought from EBay, no “Shadow Boxes” full of Medals purchased on-line and NO SEAL TRIDENTS that can be picked up just about anywhere.

A number of years back, a SEAL Buddy of mine was stationed at Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, with another SEAL as “Motivators,” giving swim tests and the like. On the ENTIRE Base, there were only two Navy SEALs. Needing a new Trident for his uniform, my Buddy goes to the Navy Exchange on Base to buy one and quickly discovers there are none for sale. Asking a cashier when they might have some, she replies, “Good luck, those are our best selling item!”       

Outside of an official “Verification,” is a SOLID photograph album. SEALs all have an “I Love Me Wall” and lots of pictures of themselves with other SEALs all over the World.  Clear pictures showing “That’s him” right alongside a bunch of Rag-Tag, Pirate looking guys with guns, dive gear, explosives, BUD/S Training pics and award ceremonies.

One or two pictures are not enough, and I always recall “Technicians” at the Team (Guys who are assigned to SEAL Teams but are not SEALs) diving into Team pictures. Pretty easy to believe a picture of a Team of shirtless SEALs posing in front of the SEAL TEAM TWO sign and a Tech who dove right in the middle of them for the picture. “See… That’s me, SEAL Team TWO.”

One or two pictures means little as verification. It’s also an unfortunate fact that many Imposters have worked at SEAL Teams or have tried BUD/S and failed. They have enough of a working knowledge and lingo to sneak past most verbal requests to verify them.


With most people not being liars, we are at a HUGE disadvantage when encountering a liar and we tend to believe their stories. Human Nature is to believe what people tell you. When someone says they are/were a Police Officer, we believe them; “Why would he make that up???” Same thing with being a SEAL, “Why would he make that up,” but they do… It also seems the more OUTRAGEOUS a story is the more we tend to believe it.

I busted a guy who had all his coworkers convinced that his SEAL Commanding Officer made them all take cocaine in Iraq and they’d hang from the rafters and cut Iraqi throats as they came through the door… Then a former EXTREME SEAL Trainee of mine was hired there and employees warned him to “Go Easy” with that guy; He’s a SEAL, PTSD, killed a lot of dudes…

Cocaine Boy doesn’t work there anymore…

Liars tell lies… All day long, everyday and they are very good at it. They are also very good “Table Turners” and have others who question them spinning in circles as the Phonies raise doubts in the questioners minds by having him second guess himself. “I never said I was a SEAL, I said I worked with SEALs, remember?”

When raising doubt and Table Turning doesn’t work, the Phonies resort to anger, “HOW COULD YOU QUESTION ME, HOW DARE YOU, I LOST A LOT OF GOOD FRIENDS!” And not having “Solid Proof” the Phony usually wins that battle…

The frustrating part for me is often the Ping-Pong game I’m forced to play with folks who inquire if So-and-So was ever a Navy SEAL. I send out a detailed form letter explaining “who I am” and “how I know” that Mr. Robert So-and-So was never a Navy SEAL. PING… The reply often comes back, “Did you check for a Bob So-and-So?  PONG… “Yes I did, there are NO So-and So’s listed in the SEAL Database… PING… Back it comes with, “He said his Class was 180, can you check?” PONG… Back it goes, “NO RECORD of him in Class 180, he is NOT a Navy SEAL, NO mistake.” PING… PONG… PING… PONG…

Finally, the requester is 100% satisfied and the “Intervention” begins with the Phony on their end.  “I have a letter here from a Retired Navy SEAL saying you were NEVER a Navy SEAL.” “Well…How would he know if I was ever a SEAL, how do you know he’s a SEAL, my operations were “Classified” there are no records of me.”

Watch: Former Navy SEAL Eric Davis on CNN discussing the heroism of Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV

Read Next: Watch: Former Navy SEAL Eric Davis on CNN discussing the heroism of Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV

Here they come again. “He says it’s classified, Senior Chief are you sure???” PING, PONG, PING, PONG…

The State of Georgia has more SEAL Imposters than any other State based on requests for verification I receive. Martial Arts Instructors are the number one profession for fraudulent SEAL/Special Forces claims.



The MOST frustrating ones are reporters and editors who print stories about local SEAL Heros in the news. Many of us are set up for “Google Alerts” and anytime the words “Former Navy SEAL, X Navy SEAL, Retired Navy SEAL, I was a Navy SEAL, He was a Navy SEAL makes the news we find out about it in SHORT order and the games begin attempting to get a “Retraction” of the story.

I go through this long explanation with the reporters and editors about how the SEAL guy they just wrote about is not really a SEAL and he lied to them and HERE IT COMES, as no reporter  likes admitting mistakes and correcting stories already in print. It’s a loss of creditability…

EACH AND EVERY REPORTER I speak with begins questioning me. “How do I know you’re a SEAL, how do I know you’re telling me the truth.”  It’s very frustrating for me, but understandable. I just wish that the media would work the Phonies over as hard as they work me before writing SEAL B.S. stories.

Try this… Next time you enter a “Cheers” type bar where everyone around town hangs out, ask the waitress or bartender “Who is a Navy SEAL in here?” Most times they will quickly point to some local drunken fat bastard at the end of the bar swilling a Schlitz.


The first kind of Phony SEAL is “almost” understood by most men as there is very little we won’t do as males to get closer to a good looking woman. He drops the S-Bomb (he says “I am a SEAL”) on her in a nightclub to impress and get her home with him. He doesn’t live the lie though. None of his friends believe him to be a SEAL, coworkers or family. He’ll tell that lie to a woman when necessary but it is not part of his daily life. Understandable, perhaps, but he’ll lose a few teeth if a real SEAL catches him and we often do… It’s like hearing your name being said at a loud party. No matter how loud it gets, a SEAL WILL hear the word SEAL being said and begin a quick investigation of the offender with his fists…

The second kind of Phony SEAL lives that lie every day. All his friends, coworkers, his mother, wife and children all believe him to be/been a Gun-Slinging, Man-Killing, Assassin, Ninja, Commando, Jungle Fighting NAVY SEAL. Pure and simple, straight to the point, this kind of Phony has “Mental Problems.” BIG ONES… And they are a very strange lot…
I go out of my way to speak with Phonies, to talk with them calmly in most cases. I ask questions and study them and it makes me better as their stories have so many similarities. One thing about most of them I believe to be true is many are afflicted with the “Hero Syndrome.”

The hero syndrome is a phenomenon affecting people who seek heroism or recognition. Acts of those suffering from the hero syndrome have been linked to previously failed heroism. The hero syndrome may also be a more general yearning for self-worth. Some claim that those with the syndrome are “narcissists” in a slump, pointing to people who have failed to achieve their dreams and ambitions, downtrodden by society’s infatuation with fame.

My thoughts???  They are a cowardly bunch of Valor Thieves who know what they are doing is wrong and they don’t care. They all need a solid asskicking…(“I agree Don”-Brandon)


It seems that most Phonies make very similar claims and pretty unoriginal ones at that.  They steal stories and twist them into their own. SEAL Operations in Cambodia, North Korea and Iran taken from movies and real and fictional SEAL books. Being a POW or the only surviving member of his SEAL Team. Was recruited to be a SEAL and never attended BUD/S Training from his specialized skills as a civilian. Recruited from the Army or the Marines. Was a SEAL Sniper, a SEAL Officer, was on SEAL Team SIX.  Had Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, or Moammar Gadhafi, in their gun sights, but was not given authorization to shoot…

And finally, my personal favorite is the “Secret Weekend Missions” Phonies claim to be carrying out while holding down a full time civilian job as an Accountant or a Plumber. Being “recalled” because they offer so much to the defense of America in the War on Terror. They are sent to Libya Friday night after watching “My name is Earl,” kill a bunch of guys and make it home for Sunday brunch…

My guess is most of them spend the weekend away from the “Little Woman” passing toe-tap  signals to their neighbor in public restroom stalls.

A Retired SEAL Buddy of mine and I stopped at an out of State VFW  for a few beers one night while camping. After Jim BUTCHERS a song he Karaokes to, he announces to the bar that he’s Retired Navy and apologizes in humor to all the Vets. We were soon approached by a guy who says his Son was a SEAL. Jim pulls out his phone, asks for the Sons name, checks the Sons name and informs him in less than a minute that his Son was never a Navy SEAL…  The guy just stood there speechless with his mouth opened wide enough to stick an apple in it…  


Phonies have a few allies who light me up as a “Cyber Bully.” It’s OK for the Phonies to spread their lies and steal Valor, but it’s not OK for me to expose those lies and reclaim Stolen Valor. Lying about being a SEAL is a “Victimless Crime,” they claim, and it is NOT…

Phonies tell you they’re a SEAL for several reasons. To get your respect, to intimidate you or to gain your trust.

The “Respect” thing is a no-brainer. Greasy little Phony Puds who have nothing and have accomplished nothing special in life. They crave respect and attention.

I’ve known a lot of SEALs in my life, I don’t know any that are homeless and living in a cardboard box or any that work at Home Depot in the Lawn and Garden Department.

Phonies drop the “S-Bomb” often to intimidate others, to back someone down and get respect in the reverse way.  A SEAL to most people is a trained killer, someone you don’t want to mess with and they use that to their advantage…

Finally, the “Trust” thing… It’s the General Contractor who builds your trust claiming to be a SEAL and then asks for all the home repair money up front and you never see him again. It’s “Why should you take Martial Arts lessons from me? Because I’m a SEAL and I’ve killed a lot of men with these hands, that’s why.”  It’s falsifying records to gain employment, whiting out Navy “Cook” and putting Navy “SEAL” in its place.  And the list goes on and on…

Phony SEALs have pulled off HUGE financial scams and I continue to be amazed by how good some of them are and how convincing they can be…

We have Phony SEALs on Death Row, Phony SEAL Pedophiles, Phony SEALs on active duty in ALL the Services, members of the Clergy, Police Officers and Political figures… The worst ones in my book are the Husbands and Fathers…

All too often we receive letters from Widows asking for SEAL Pallbearers and SEAL buddies to attend the Phony SEAL Husband’s funeral and they are VERY TOUGH requests to answer. Even worse are the Kids who write and ask about Daddy’s SEAL background, for stories about him they can cherish in memory. This is the guy who taught them to ride a bike, bought them a BB gun and bailed them out of trouble in school.

A lifetime of respect and admiration vaporizes in an instant when told there is NO RECORD of Dad ever being a Navy SEAL.

I received a call one night from a Boston Fire Fighter and he asked me to verify a SEAL Claim for him. After finding NO LISTING in the database for the name he gave me, the Fire Fighter went NUTS on the phone. OHHH, THAT MOTHER !$%^$*#. IV’E GOT TWO FRIENDS THAT ARE SEALS. WAIT ‘TIL I TELL THEM ABOUT THIS &%$@#…  My antennas went straight up when he said he had “TWO” SEAL friends and I asked for their names. Neither one of them were listed either…


Military Phonies are a weird, cowardly lot. Often very abusive to women and children, they are also very threatening to myself and my family when I confront and expose them. They enjoy the lies and enjoy seeing how far they can go with it and many rise to powerful positions in the Veterans Administration, and lead VFW’s and American Legions. Unfortunately some have even infiltrated memberships in SEAL Organizations having never served a single day in the Military.

I have known SEAL Phonies who have raced against legless Veterans at charity events from Iraq and Afghanistan and then proudly posed for pictures with that Vet, STEALING his Honor and Valor. And I have known many who “Photoshop” their ugly faces and place them over the faces of dead Heros and post them on Facebook as their own.

With the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are doing more for Veterans than ever before monetarily and there is ALWAYS a number of spineless cowards waiting to “Cash-In” on something they don’t deserve. And BILLIONS are lost each year through fraudulent VA Claims and bilking of Veteran charities by these Pus Sacks.

The string of broken hearts and drained bank accounts from their lies is endless…



Sir or Madam,

I greatly appreciate your interest in upholding the honor of the US Navy SEAL Teams, and your search for the TRUTH. Before answering your questions I must make clear that I am a private individual, not affiliated with the US Dept. of Defense or any other government organization.

My efforts to expose SEAL imposters are performed as a service to the public, and in honor of my fallen SEAL Teammates… men who truly earned the right to the title “US NAVY SEAL” but who are no longer able to stand forward in defense of their honor, their reputations, and their TEAMs.

If the name you provided is spelled correctly, I do NOT find a listing in the SEAL Database (SEAL Teams and predecessor units from 1943 to the Present Day) for anyone named JOHN DOE. I have also examined possible alternate spellings, and names with similar pronunciations without finding any that appear to be applicable.

Unless he has undertaken the unlikely action of a legal name change (an action for which there would be evidence in the form of court documentation) since his claimed participation in SEAL training, and based upon the information you have provided, I can state conclusively that JOHN DOE has NEVER COMPLETED SEAL training, and he is not now, nor was he ever a Navy SEAL, a Navy UDT “Frogman”, a member of any Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU), or a member of the Naval Amphibious Scouts & Raiders (S&R).

Many SEAL imposters when confronted with the information I have provided will resort to claiming that their records are sealed, burned or their SEAL Operations were Classified and that there are no official records of them.

Before any classified operations may be undertaken as a SEAL Operator, a man must first successfully complete the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training program and then the follow-on secondary training program. The names of all those who successfully graduate from that training program sequence are compiled in the SEAL database. Later participation in classified operations has “no impact” on whether or not a person is listed as a graduate of the training program.

There are records of every man who has qualified for the title of “SEAL”; there have been and will continue to be secret missions, but there are NO secret SEALs.

Once again I must stress that although I am a US Navy veteran, and a former SEAL, I am a civilian performing in an entirely unofficial role. I recommend that you obtain a formal/official US NAVY statement regarding Mr. JOHN DOE’s claimed SEAL credentials. To do so you may contact the PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE at the NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE COMMAND in San Diego by calling (619) 522-2822, or you may contact the FOIA COORDINATOR at the NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE COMMAND in San Diego, California, and submit a formal FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT inquiry in writing addressed to:


Naval Special Warfare Command

FOIA Coordinator

2000 Trident Way

San Diego, CA 92155

Thank you again for your concern in this matter, and for your assistance in upholding the honor of the US Navy SEAL Teams. If I can be of any further assistance to you in this matter, please contact me at your convenience.

Respectfully,  Don Shipley BUD/S 131, SEAL Team ONE, SEAL Team TWO.




What Phony SEALs crave is exactly what real SEALs hate. “Attention.” Real SEALs feel that they have rightfully done what most could never do and anything we say about it makes us feel like Braggers. SEALs avoid saying they are SEALs, unlike a Phony, but we won’t lie about it and it’ll take a few questions before we reveal it.

What do you do? “I’m retired.”

Retired from what? “From the Navy.”

What Ship were you on? “I wasn’t on a Ship.”

Where were you Stationed at? “Little Creek, Virginia.”

What did you do there? “I was a SEAL.”

It’ll take a few questions before the SEAL Bomb gets dropped because we don’t like what happens after that. We don’t like to Ooo’s and Aww’s. We don’t like the “Don’t kill me,” thing. We don’t like the whispers…

Phonies LOVE that stuff and will drop the SEAL Bomb while extending their hand in greeting.

Big SEAL Belt Buckles, SEAL Hats, Shirts and Bumper Stickers.

BIG, LOUD, UGLY Bastards…

For 69-years, Veterans of Naval Special Warfare and their Families have sacrificed painfully and endlessly.  The daring exploits and bravery displayed by such a small number of men is striking and they ask for nothing except help to uphold their Families Honor while they continue to Fight.

For the Parents, Siblings, Wives, Children and Sweethearts, I’ll expose EVERY Phony who would steal that HONOR…

I was a SEAL and I will NEVER back down from a Phony one.

Send them to Afghanistan, send them all straight to Hell…

Read the latest on Stolen Valor at MSNBC.

Credits to former SEAL Steve Robinson for his years of contribution reclaiming Stolen Valor.  Send Veteran verification requests

Don Shipley is a retired Navy SEAL who served 24-years and now owns