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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stolen Valor, an introduction

Jack E. Kemp

I've been reading a lot of things lately, including some books on psychology which lead me to some on the psychology of war and fighting, written by actual veteran authors. Recently I got in the mail a copy of "Stolen Valor" by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley, about how Vietnam vets were badly treated and their complex tales. I just skimmed it for now.I rushed to see the chapter on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and found its beginning had a very pragmatic angle.

The first stories are about fake combat vets who claim to have PTSD so they get higher VA benefits, and how easy it is to fool a civilian doctor. A VA counselor, a former Special Forces vet from Vietnam who later studied psychology, became a de facto detective. One time he was invited to talk to a group of 8 vets who claimed to be

Special Forces with combat related issues in a VA hospital counseling session. He brought documentation of his Silver Star, his Purple Heart, his jump wings, Special Warfare School certificate, etc. and started asking them questions. They got defensive (like some phony 9/11 vets) and told him, "Man, you don't know what you're talking about!" Many of them claimed they had gone on secret missions in Cambodia that were not on their military records. After the counselor heard them mispronounce some military slang, hearing them say they arrived in Vietnam in a certain unit in some year that the counselor personally knew unit didn't arrive until a year later, etc., the counselor came to the conclusion they were all faking it. Some of these characters were actual veterans but did not serve in combat - the others may not have been veterans at all. The counselor also kept a written govt. list of when all units arrived in Vietnam to double check.

Both this combat vet counselor and the doctors are all but unwilling to file papers to throw phonies out of the VA hospital because the paperwork involved is long and complicated and involves hard legal fights. The counselor wouldn't even openly tell them they were phonies when he met them with their families. Being a combat vet was their identity, part of their life - even when it wasn't true.

Skipping around the book, I see that a few phonies actually got to themselves elected President or Vice President of a local VFW or similar vets' organization on the outside. These guys were outgoing and well liked - and even in one case where a phony was prosecuted by the government and found guilty, their buddies in the VFW still stood up for them, not believing a court proven conviction. That happened, in my opinion, because these charismatic guys offered their buddies a level of companionship, acceptance, and friendship that no civilian - shrink or regular citizen - could or did offer them.

The Special Forces vet/counselor once significantly helped a veteran who felt guilty about sending eight troops under his command forward too fast (they were killed by US artillery). This happened when the counselor being the first person to tell this officer, "Yeah, you f***ed up." The civilian doctors wouldn't say that, gave the officer pills, resulting in his never having to face the guilt that was eating him until he met this veteran/counselor.

Yes, real life is complex. And I didn't know you could find this kind of realism admitted to in a book.

Comment by Lawrence Morris 25 minutes ago

If anyone knows a Veteran having PTSD issues (they use to call it "shell shock" in the old days) i.e. anger, isolationism, marital problems or any type of anti-social tendencies please encourage that person to seek out help from the closest Vet Center. Go to ( for more information. I should point out I am a Vietnam

Vet and have greatly benefited from their program. The vast majority of Therapist working at the Vet Centers are Veterans, like myself, which explains why the program has been so successful for me and for so many others like me.

I became so impressed and active with the Vet Center program and have devoted so much time helping other Vets, the County Board of Supervisor for my District appointed me to the County Veterans Advisory Committee.

This is why I encourage anyone and everyone to step up and spread the word to other Vets in need. Most Vets with PTSD symptoms have no idea this program is available for them. There is no financial obligation (except for maybe gas money getting to the Center).

One other thing, Vets that technically didn't have 'boots on the ground' in a combat zone may still be eligible if they experienced stress collateral damage outside of a Combat Zone. I'm especially talking about support service Veterans near the Zone which experienced casualties of war that are to graphic to go into detail.

Larry Morris

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