Since many years later I served in Bosnia and Iraq, I’ll gladly claim whatever status that grants me.
Over the last 30+ years I’ve been a cop in California, I have come across dozens of people claiming that they were some kind of war vet. In my early cop days, they usually claimed to be Nam vets. In those days, I was pretty gullible and would often believe the person’s stories. Then, a few times, I heard things that I knew could not have been possible…usually somebody spreading other bullshit I had heard before.
I lost track of how many criminals, drunks, crazies, homeless people and many “normal” people I heard make false claims. In almost every case, the person would claim something like they had served in some type of Special Forces unit—if it was Army,then they were Rangers or “Green Berets.” If they claimed Navy, it was SEALS, if it was Marines, then they were Recon or a Sniper. If it was Air Force, then they were the Door Gunner on the Space Shuttle.
Many times I’d get a call on a homeless person pan handling for money….holding up a sign claiming that they were a “Nam Vet and needed help.”
Since it was my police duty to contact the person and advise them that citizens were complaining, I’d get the begger’s info—date of birth etc. In most cases, I could tell since the person was really too young to have served in Nam, that they were lying. I’d challenge them on it. In most cases I found that they had never even served in the military, or, if they had, they had been kicked out early. I told them that they could not claim Vet status for begging as it was an insult to those who’d actually served in Nam and risked their lives, or gave their lives.
Several years ago I was called to a local college campus to investigate a violent student. He had gone around telling everybody that he suffered PTSD- that was why he attacked so many people and had been arrested for every single crime in the California Penal Code. When I finally arrested him and asked him about “what was your MOS in the Army Rangers---when you went to Grenada?”
He looked at me and asked what was MOS? I told him: “that is what proves you are full of shit.” He had NEVER been in the military, but he somehow had gotten a Veterans Administration medical card.
But, sadly it’s not just bums, drunks and criminals who fake being a war vet. I have run across a few cops who I figured out were also fakes. Fakes at some of the police stuff they’d claimed they’d done and a few who faked having been war vets. Many fakers start out where they may have actually been in the military during a war—but they never actually went to the war. In many cases I’ve seen them start out by putting a decal on their car, or wearing a hat or t-shirt.
After they’ve worn the sticker, hat or shirt for awhile, then some people start the think that the faker had been in the war…and it takes off from there.
I was in West Berlin, Germany in 1975 when we watched South Viet Nam fall on the news. The next day, we had an alert---loaded all our combat gear and headed to Tempelhof Air Force Base (now just an airport). We left the barracks before the sun was up…sat around the base until lunch, ate lunch, then went back to the barracks. That was as close as I got to Viet Nam.
Sonofagun …over 20 years later I did end up going to Bosnia and Iraq, twice as old as I was when Nam ended. I was lucky that I was a lot older and wiser when I went to war. I think that helped me alot.
So, when you find a person faking being a vet….. once you are sure…challenge them in public. Simple checks: how old are they? Ask what MOS they had. Ask what unit they were in and where they served. If they are true and honest Vets, shake their hand. If they’re a fake poser….then do what you like.
On a positive note, for a REAL VET, a short time after I'd returned from Iraq, I was working my cop job. I was called to a home where a man and his wife were having problems. The man was a true Gulf War Vet. When I got there, he only wanted to talk to me...because he'd read in the local paper a story they'd written about me.
I sat and listened to him for an hour. He was a mess. He'd never figured out who to talk to for his very real PTSD. It turned out, that just me listening to him, relating a few of my experiences in Iraq and telling him it was OK to be bothered by what he experienced... he never had another problem.
They lived close to the police station I had worked at...so I saw them a few times a week...walking down town, holding hands and smiling. Life was going to be good.