Is he or she military?
Wounded vet? Special forces? POW?
How to verify military claims
When a sociopath wants you to believe that he’s honorable, he may tell you that he served in the military. When a sociopath wants you to believe he’s a larger-than-life hero, he may tell you he was a black ops commando.
VeriSEAL.org, an organization that verified the backgrounds of Special Operations Forces personnel, exposed more than 35,000 phony Navy SEALS. This is truly amazing, because only 11,000 men actually graduated from the SEAL training program, and its predecessor, the Underwater Demolition Team, since 1947. In other words, there are three times as many military impostors as actual SEALs.
Another organization, the POW Network, exposes people who exaggerate or fabricate American military credentials—those who claim rank they never achieved, medals they never earned, enlistments that never happened. The group posts wannabes’ names, photos and details on The Fake Warriors Project. How many are there? Five thousand military impostors and counting.
Here’s what you should remember: True military veterans rarely talk about their experiences. If someone is trying to impress you with tales of heroism, there is a good chance he or she is lying and is a military impostor.
How to verify military service
Despite stories of “covert missions” and “classified information,” you can indeed verify military service claims. For the U.S. military, you can find out:
- Dates of service
- Marital status
- Decorations and awards
- Place of induction and separation
- Duty assignments
- Duty status (such as discharged or retired)
- And more
Official military records are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Information about U.S. service personnel is available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Getting the information is not difficult. To make a request, all you have to do is download a form and mail or fax it in. Include a cover letter requesting the records under FOIA, and ask for all available releasable information. If the person was never in the military, you’ll receive a reply telling you that the center has no record of him or her.
If the person served in a National Guard unit on active duty, the National Personnel Records Center will probably have information. If not, you may need to contact the Adjutant General’s office for the state in which the person claims to have served.
If you think you know someone who is a military impostor, report your suspicions to the Fake Warrior Project, administered by the POW Network. Just go to the organization’s website and fill out a form.
How to verify Special Operations Forces claims
To become a U.S. Navy SEAL, a soldier must complete Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training—a six-month program that weeds out 75 percent of each class. Then, each SEAL goes through further training in his mission specialty.
A former SEAL captain, who has done his share of busting fakes, says a simple question might help you spot a phony. It is: “What was your class number?” If the guy stumbles at all in his answer, he’s lying. A true SEAL never forgets his BUD/S class number. Class numbers are now up to the mid-200’s.
POWs and other heroes
Is the guy claiming he was a prisoner or war? Or that he won the Congressional Medal of Honor—the highest and most prestigious military decoration in America? Here’s where you can check him out:
The POW Network lists all prisoners of war from Vietnam.
The U.S. Army Center of Military History lists all Congressional Medal of Honor winners from all wars.
The Military Times Hall of Valor is a database of valor award citations of heroes from the U.S. armed services.
The Legion of Valor lists all recipients of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross and Air Force Cross.
The POW Network has already exposed 1,400 fake Vietnam prisoners of war. This is another astounding number, because only 660 U.S. servicemen actually were prisoners in Vietnam and came out alive. Again, more phonies than true heroes.
Military frauds in other countries
Fraudulent claims of military service are not limited to the United States. Following are links to help you verify military service—or find out if someone has been exposed as a phony.
The Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides nominal rolls of all military personnel who served in armed conflicts. The website includes links for World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the first Gulf War.
Australia and New Zealand Military Impostors investigates military phonies and exposes their lies on its website.
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