GB’s post, HERE, brought back some bittersweet memories…

Years ago I was with a good friend at his table at Wanenmacher’s gun show at Tulsa. I had on a Navy ballcap with a P-3 on it, and this guy wandered up, wearing a flight jacket with all kinds of pins hanging off it, (Now we didn’t wear pins, other than maybe a 2500/5000 hour Lockheed pin, and the patches were our histories of our service).

He proceeded to tell me he was a veteran, was in VP-47, and did all kinds of things that I knew the P-3s had never done. He doubled down that he was there when the Mayaguez was rescued, and ‘his’ airplane got hit by AAA from the Cambodians.

I just smiled at him and nodded occasionally, until he finally realized I wasn’t going to engage him, and he made some smart remark and wandered off down the aisle. Bill just shook his head and asked my why I didn’t call him on his BS, since Bill knew I had actually been on those missions and had told him the story, including VP-17 taking one round in the tail from a 50 BMG. on the Swift boat that was tied up alongside the Mayaguez. My answer was it wasn’t worth the hate and discontent, because he’d get irate and call me a liar.

Bill disappeared for a bit, and when he came back he was chuckling. I asked him what was up, and he said he’d talked to a couple of other folks about this guy. It wasn’t until the next day that I found out he’d told Mike Carter, a Vietnam vet Marine, and two other veterans about this guy. Apparently Mike went after him tooth and nail, and ended up getting the guy arrested for theft of the flight jacket (don’t ask me how he did that), as stolen goods.

There has been a lot of stolen valor out there, and as we continue to see, it goes on and on everyday. This guy got his comeuppance, but he was one of how many?

Those old guys sitting quietly in their rockers at the old folks homes, or in some cases still out there working, didn’t steal anything. They EARNED every medal they got. Just like William Crawford, HERE. And they didn’t and still don’t broadcast what they did, because they didn’t do it for the glory, but for those they shared the foxholes, ships, or airplanes with.


TBT… — 28 Comments

  1. In the 80’s, I lived in the flats in Boerne. All I could afford in the San Antonio bedroom community. My neighbor was a small, thin guy with bright eyes. Come to find out he was a SEAL…. Had been in Viet Nam. He was the quiet, nice guy, that you’d never suspect was an operator.

    He had some VERY interesting stories. Some stories that I know the name of now…. Operation Eldest Son among them.

    Yeah, you don’t always know who did what. Like my old scout master, my high school buddy’s dad and uncle. My 8th grade science teacher….. Too many to mention. Those guys were the real deal.

  2. Generally the fakers are pretty easy to pick out. Generally they seem to be SF, or Navy Seals, or one I met once said he was a Recon Marine sniper. They’re never a company clerk. I read somewhere that there are more people claiming to be Vietnam vets than actually were in country. My response to them is much like NFO’s.

  3. I had an uncle that earned a bronze star, purple heart with oak leaf cluster and I don’t know what else. He never, ever talked about any of it.

    His brother did occupation duty after the war (WW2) in Patton’s 3rd Army, and would only talk about his service reluctantly. I now think it was because he knew he hadn’t done anything compared to the guys that fought, and didn’t want me to think he was something special.

    To few the “men” today that don’t feel the need to “brag” about being men. They are content to just be men.

  4. This is awesome. And agree 100% that the guys who were actually there don’t like to talk much about it, at least in my experience.

  5. I’ve read about William Crawford a few times and have the utmost respect for him. He passed in 2000, but still deserves the respect for his humbleness, as many of his era deserve.

  6. Weirdest one was the Marine who did recon patrols in Vietnam.

    Why weird?

    Because every time he saw an elephant he would jump, then start laughing nigh unto passing out.

    One time I actually got him to respond to my questions. Seems the NV would put explosives and other supplies on elephants and cover them with either grey tarps or elephant skins and send them down various supply trails, especially the Ho Chi Mihn. His group was tasked with stopping the elephants. Which they did with a jury-rigged 20mm aircraft cannon. And the laughing was remembering the secondary explosions from the elephants. And it was definitely laugh or cry…

    Miss you, Aegerjon. Hope you found your peace at last.

  7. All- Thanks for the comments. Beans- Yep, there was definitely some ‘weird’ stuff done over there…

    Posted from my iPhone.

  8. I never ever understood why the fakers tried to pretend to be SF types. Kevin O’Brien (Hognose) once remarked that the SF community is really small, and that a lot of those guys know each other. It’s like trying to claim you’re in the offensive line for the New England Patriots — while standing with the team.

    Thankfully, most folks aren’t bent like that. I won’t even wear Dad’s 3rd Armored Cav T-shirts. Told him if he found one with ‘Friend of the Cavalry’, it’d be another matter.

  9. I was a missileer. I have no stories, but I do have 220+ wake-ups below the gravel.

  10. I ran into a Vietnam vet once, who’s story I didn’t doubt for a moment.
    He said he was a cook. Never went to the lines; he was a cook at the bases. And he was proud of being “the best damn chow hall cook in that entire country.”
    Now, he might have exaggerated the nature and extent of his culinary ability, but I found no reason to doubt his pride at being one of the first people to provide returning infantry the first hot meal they had seen in who-knows-how-long.

    Stolen valor folks usually want to be Rambo, not the guy holding the ladle back at camp.

    • Yep. We needed EVERY one of those cooks, truck drivers, engineers etc. I was 11c20. We supplied close in support for the fire base and did short patrols. No hero here. My Purple Heart is ok, but I am most proud of my 1st inf. Div patch and combat infantry badge.

  11. I have a close friend that was a ‘special operator.’ He is the real deal. Try as I might I can’t get him to tell me much at all. A lot of it is still classified so he is true to that. The little he has old about was tantalizing and there would be a great book there.
    I no longer bug him to tell me, just glad that he is a close friend and not an enemy. I thank the Lord we have men like these in our Country.

    • I met one person who I could tell on sight was “something interesting” with the military (the husband of a grad-school classmate). I actually managed to get him to laugh exactly once, when—after I’d taken him and his search-and-rescue-dog-in-training flying—I asked if he minded a question.

      He bristled and said, “What?”

      Me: “Do you know how to crochet?”

      He stared, then busted a gut laughing and admitted that no, he could not crochet. I pretended to wipe sweat off my brow and said, “Oh good! There’s one thing you don’t know how to do.”

      He relaxed a lot around me after that little exchange, and I never asked him or his lady anything other than how the dog was doing. We got along pretty well.

  12. I was servicing some gear at a USPO when a clerk mentioned that fellow clerk “Joe” had been the medic in the real-life inspiration for the movie “Full-Metal Jacket”. I called BS. Next service call a few weeks later, “Joe” showed me the newspaper clippings. Wholey sheet! Real quiet guy, too. Glad I didn’t previously try to brag about my 8 years of boring peacetime Navy.

  13. Amen to “Toastrider’s” comment.
    The specialty units are small and tight.
    One of the Paramedics I worked with claimed to be a “Para-Jumper.” When I told him my friend the real PJ wanted to chat with him personally, the PJ claims came to an abrupt halt.
    I wish it was that easy to shut the rest of ’em up.

  14. All- Thanks for the comments and agreed. And Sam- You ain’t right… 🙂

    Posted from my iPhone.

    • Thank you for the compliment! I do weird, strange, and peculiar, all at the AAA level, though I try to keep it down to the “a” level, so as not worry people. (How’m I doin’?)

  15. Ha, stolen valour. Back in the day every retired NCO in the British Army had fought at Imjin Hill. All of them. Not unlike the relics of the True Cross which could circle the world thrice.

    But seriously, why would anyone want to pretend they’d fought in some war? To look good? Such idiots.

  16. I never could get my ex father-in-law to talk about his time in WWII flying on PBYs in the Pacific. He got a clouded look, and would deflect any attempts. The only thing he said about it was that too many were lost.

  17. STxAR, I live in Boerne now and have friends who live in the flats. Our town has a lot of retired military and you are all correct, the guys who have been there and done that don’t talk much about it. My Sunday school teacher did two tours in Nam, one flying F100s and the other F4s, one day I asked him if he was ever frightened or had a close call, he did 240 flights in Nam, I only know because I looked him up. My old friend said yes, a few time but the worst was test flying a repaired F100 not in Nam and the afterburner got stuck full on. He said he kept working the switch knowing he was about ten seconds from having to eject when he got it to shut off. Those are his kind of war stories.

    By the way, I am proud of my four years of service, never in harms way, one year in the U.S. and three in Europe and being awarded the National Everybody medal we all received in the 1960’s and the good conduct medal for not being court-marshaled.

  18. Grog- Damn… Agreed!

    Jonna- We need to talk, I ‘think’ I can get you some info on him.

    Old Tex- Excellent points, and thanks for your service.

  19. Any time two vets come together, they play “where were you stationed” and “who did you know.” The “six degrees of separation” thing in the military is more like two or three degrees, depending on how much time has passed.

    That’s why I’m always annoyed when the records people in St. Louis claim they’ve lost records and there’s nothing they can do. With a name and approximate date, flipping through some files, you could recreate any serviceman’s record to 95% accuracy in a few hours.

  20. TRX, as I understand it there really was a fire that wiped out a bunch of records and it is impossible to recreate them today unless your guy held onto his service record or 301 file. When I retired the navy handed me a microfiche of my file and after they drafted me again they gave me everything on a CD which is around here someplace. I don’t hesitate to tell people I own all kinds of cool medals that I never earned since my grandmother left my grandfather’s medals to me when she died. I’ve got a box full of my own and other bits and pieces but it’s not like I’ll ever wear them again. I can recount amusing sea stories for hours and hours. I/we have/had a knack for making even the most dire situation amusing.
    Like a lot of you I’m the son of a soldier who served for almost 30 years and he never talked about anything he did in Vietnam until after I saw the elephant. Then he would talk about the amusing things. That’s probably where I learned to do the same thing. Out of 30 years of my own service I kept my journals and books, dress uniforms, sword and the box of medals and pins. Everything else I left on the bonfire of my former life when I left San Diego.

  21. In Australia the 1903 defence act was amended to make both pretending to be a returned veteran and wearing service medals not awarded a criminal offence. Not sure how far back but I know several have been arrested over the last couple of years. Grandad never spoke about his time in ww ii. We had to look up his record and read the unit history someone put together. Dad only speaks sometimes about Vietnam. Only reason I didn’t sign up after 2001 is the ADF doesn’t take blind people.