Wednesday, November 11, 2015

An Open Letter from My Brother to a Man (Probably) Pretending to Be Military

People misrepresenting themselves or lying about who they are or what they have accomplished is unfortunately not new or rare, and people posing as military is no exception. In fact, there are laws against it and entire websites devoting to outing and shaming people who do it. We notably saw someone pose as military last year, when a man traveled to local schools pretending to be military and claiming he wanted to speak to kids--and then got arrested. While many businesses made it a point to honor veterans today, Veterans' Day, with free things or discounts, some people see this as an opportunity to lie about who they are for personal gain. Perhaps they're struggling financially and need the help--I sincerely hope this is the case, as the greedy alternative is far worse--but that doesn't change the fact that this is a crime that disrespects those who have served. While my brother was out and about in Uniontown this morning, he saw a possible case of what's called "stolen valor" and wanted to pen an open letter. He and I both are surrounded by military. We come from a military family, with great-grandgathers, grandfathers, and uncles who have served, not to mention close friends. Our dad was even injured in Iraq, and between the two of us, we probably know someone in every single branch. He recently made the decision to join the National Guard himself and finished his training over the summer, and this combined with our own personal ties makes it unsurprising that he had something to say. As a reminder to everyone else, please don't be afraid to question the way someone is presenting themselves if something seems off, and don't be afraid to ask for proper military I.D. before honoring a discount.

This morning, at the Sheetz along route 51 near Uniontown, I saw what I can only best describe as "possible stolen valor." The individual in question I saw--although it may only been for a few seconds--was wearing an Air Force dress uniform but was clearly out of regulation in two areas. He had no cover (hat), and his hair was longer than regulation allows it (imagine Moe from "The Three Stooges"). And I am fairly certain the Air Force does not authorize blonde highlight. Moreover, what really caught my eye was the enormous amount of "chest candy" (awards and decorations) which adorned his dress uniform, a common trait in cases of stolen valor. That alone made me very suspicious of this individual’s intent and supposed military service. How can I best describe his chest candy? Imagine if someone put superglue on his chest and decided to belly-flop straight into a giant pool of LEGO bricks. Now, he could have been a "Super Soldier" or "Super Airman," but I highly doubt a super cadet would allow him or herself to even be caught dead like that. Not to mention a super soldier would be unlikely to be without his cover and his hair not within standard.

Although an area high school does have an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) program and the individual in question could have been a cadet, I find that unlikely for a few reasons. Even for a cadet in high school, I highly doubt an individual would allow him or herself to wear the uniform in such a manner. The proper wearing of the uniform is probably lesson number one on day number one, and incorrectly wearing the uniform as such still shows a great amount of disrespect. It especially brings a great amount of disrespect to the branch of service the program is affiliated with, as well as the school, the cadre, the program, and anyone enrolled.

To this individual--and in case anyone may not know--The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 reads as such: 
"The law amends the federal criminal code to make it a crime for a person to fraudulently claim having received any of a series of particular military decorations and awards with the intention of obtaining money, property, or other tangible benefit from convincing someone that he or she rightfully did receive that award."
What you may see as a victimless crime or an opportunity to cash in on free items is a crime. You attempted to, and possibly succeed in, obtaining free items for Veterans' Day you did not rightfully deserve. Moreover, what you did was highly and utterly disrespectful to say the least to anyone who has ever worn the uniform of any branch. Millions and millions of individuals have decided to sacrifice so much just to do something good for their country or to be part of something bigger than themselves, and you decided to make a mockery of all of them and cash in on what they have sacrificed. We should never forget those who did not come home and made the ultimate sacrifice. Moreover, an area veteran is doing an honorable deed to help honor veterans. Marine Corps Corporal Brandon Rumbaugh is currently living homeless to help raise awareness for homeless veterans in our country. The fact that you decided to commit stolen valor on this day and to do it while a local veteran, who lost limbs while deployed overseas, is doing something to raise awareness to a national issue makes me even more upset and disgusted. It truly shows how little honor, integrity, and respect you have as an individual.

While I can't be positive, I can, however say I think what I saw was indeed some sort of stolen valor because the individual was so "ate up" (unkempt and poorly dressed). And why else would someone go into Sheetz, in uniform, on Veterans’ Day when they are offering free items to veterans?

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