War veterans are often happy to oblige when asked to recount stories of valor and heroism on the battlefield. Unfortunately, a few of them never actually served.
A recent viral video of a veteran confronting a man he claims was posing as an Army Ranger has been making its way around the Internet. The video allegedly documents a case of “stolen valor,” in which people make false claims about unearned military awards, unperformed service or war experiences that never happened. This includes people with no military experience and veterans who choose to embellish their records.
The reasons for stolen valor vary. Some individuals will create fictional war stories in order to spice up an otherwise unremarkable life or military career. Some are veterans who exaggerate combat injuries to claim additional benefits. A few have completely fabricated a military identity in order to commit fraud.
The average civilian cannot typically distinguish a real veteran from a fake, but as the aforementioned video shows, real veterans can. A website, stolenvalor.com, is dedicated to exposing those claiming phony valor. The website includes links to news stories of stolen valor and even includes information to help people determine if a veteran’s claims are true.
While impersonating a veteran or wearing an unearned uniform or award is not necessarily illegal, using a fake military identity for personal gain is. In 2013, Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act, which outlaws falsely claiming certain military honors such as a Medal of Honor or a Purple Heart.