Counterfeit SEALS

Two interesting phenomena:  Men who falsely claim to be ex-SEALS and men who go to great lengths to prove them to be fakes.

In Louisiana, a man duped the governor into believing he was the lone survivor of a Navy SEAL team ambushed in Afghanistan. In California, a jousting promoter said he was a SEAL veteran, not just a veteran of battles at Renaissance fairs. And in Georgia, a televangelist listed a stint with the SEALs in his online bio for years, along with bit parts in the films “Green Lantern” and “Who’s Your Caddy?”

None of these men ever served in the elite Navy units that undergo some of the toughest training in the military and undertake some of its most dangerous Special Forces missions. And while there have always been SEAL impostors, their ranks have been reinforced since a SEAL unit based in Little Creek, Va., killed Osama bin Laden six weeks ago.

The elite counter-terrorism unit that took out Osama bin Laden deploys from a tiny military facility in Dam Neck, Va., just outside of Virginia Beach. There are six other groups within special warfare and a total of 2,300 active duty SEAL officers.

“I’ve told four women alone this week to run the other direction,” said Mary Schantag, who, along with her husband, Chuck, a disabled veteran, checks out potential impostors and posts their names on their Web site, the P.O.W. Network.

The claims surface as stray comments in bars, a line in a Facebook profile, or an insignia worn on a cap. The consequences are often nil. Pentagon officials have said they don’t have the resources to fact-check every potential liar.

So the only thing standing between SEAL impostors and the truth is a small band of veterans and civilian volunteers, scattered across the country, who have made it their life’s work to expose phonies in all aspects of military service, including bogus war medal recipients.

“Only 500 [SEALs] served in Vietnam. And we’ve met all 20,000 of them,” said Steve Robinson, a former SEAL in Forsyth, Mo., and author of “No Guts, No Glory: Unmasking Navy SEAL Imposters.”

When news of bin Laden’s death broke, these investigators say, they were soon overwhelmed by reports of suspected SEAL phonies. Robinson, who had hunted fake SEALs for 10 years, was called out of self-imposed retirement to help fellow volunteers track down claims. . . .

Robinson estimates there are only 7,000 living former SEALs and 2,200 on active duty. By his calculations, the odds of running into someone who has played in the NFL are better than the odds of meeting a current or former SEAL.

via Boast-busters: Those who hunt and expose fake Navy SEALS are busier than ever – The Washington Post.

What psychology do we see here?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    This is nothing but the manifestation of insecurity in some portion of the population that seeks to play upon the glory of others. I’ve heard of similar stories about guys claiming to be Viet Nam veterans, or a “winner” of the Purple Heart. These are sad attempts to garner sympathy and a vague honor from others.

    You also see this in people who claim degrees from non-existent schools, mail-order diploma mills, and sometimes even from legitimate schools. How many people really check the references? Not enough to mater apparently.

  • SKPeterson

    This is nothing but the manifestation of insecurity in some portion of the population that seeks to play upon the glory of others. I’ve heard of similar stories about guys claiming to be Viet Nam veterans, or a “winner” of the Purple Heart. These are sad attempts to garner sympathy and a vague honor from others.

    You also see this in people who claim degrees from non-existent schools, mail-order diploma mills, and sometimes even from legitimate schools. How many people really check the references? Not enough to mater apparently.

  • WebMonk

    Stupid psychology?

    Good on these guys who expose this stuff.

  • WebMonk

    Stupid psychology?

    Good on these guys who expose this stuff.

  • Tom Hering

    Maybe it’s a shame that public outcry caused Disney to withdraw its application for a copyright on the name “SEAL Team Six.” Impostors might think twice if they knew corporation lawyers would go after them, in order to protect the integrity of a new brand. And having someone in a Donald Duck costume, sailor suit and all, show up at your favorite bar to serve you with a notice is about as emasculating as it gets. Especially when Donald starts jumping up and down, swinging his fists, and quacking up a storm. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    Maybe it’s a shame that public outcry caused Disney to withdraw its application for a copyright on the name “SEAL Team Six.” Impostors might think twice if they knew corporation lawyers would go after them, in order to protect the integrity of a new brand. And having someone in a Donald Duck costume, sailor suit and all, show up at your favorite bar to serve you with a notice is about as emasculating as it gets. Especially when Donald starts jumping up and down, swinging his fists, and quacking up a storm. :-D

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As I understand it, my former governor Jesse Ventura, who has long claimed to be a former SEAL, is not one in fact. He does, however, have the justification of having gone through SEAL training.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    As I understand it, my former governor Jesse Ventura, who has long claimed to be a former SEAL, is not one in fact. He does, however, have the justification of having gone through SEAL training.

  • Dennis Peskey

    I had this happen to me when I began attending Michigan State U in 1970. As the Artillery Operations Chief for the 12th Marines, I witnessed the strategic and tactical operations of all units operating in the northern I Corps during 1969. Several of my fellow collegiate brothers expressed an interest in the actual conduct of operations – so I gave them a brief overview of our operations within the political parameters imposed upon the military.

    While I was addressing their questions, one member suddenly blurted out he had been at a particular combat base mentioned. This rather surprised me; one question was all it took to expose the falseness of his claim. Strangely, I felt sorry for him for what he perceived as acclaim or status was in reality dedication, hard work and a lot of suffering. He was simply a wannabee; so insecure of his own achievements and life he would claim another’s cross. Forgive them – but by all means expose these people – they haven’t paid the price of freedom which is far greater than most civilians realize.

    P.S. Imagine my surprise when I learned an instructor at one of the LC-MS seminaries was a SEAL. He recognized me as a Marine; I knew he had an abiding love of mud; we shared a beer or two with appropriate barbs exchanged. Beware SEALS – they love mud and blood even more than jarheads.
    Semper Fi,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    I had this happen to me when I began attending Michigan State U in 1970. As the Artillery Operations Chief for the 12th Marines, I witnessed the strategic and tactical operations of all units operating in the northern I Corps during 1969. Several of my fellow collegiate brothers expressed an interest in the actual conduct of operations – so I gave them a brief overview of our operations within the political parameters imposed upon the military.

    While I was addressing their questions, one member suddenly blurted out he had been at a particular combat base mentioned. This rather surprised me; one question was all it took to expose the falseness of his claim. Strangely, I felt sorry for him for what he perceived as acclaim or status was in reality dedication, hard work and a lot of suffering. He was simply a wannabee; so insecure of his own achievements and life he would claim another’s cross. Forgive them – but by all means expose these people – they haven’t paid the price of freedom which is far greater than most civilians realize.

    P.S. Imagine my surprise when I learned an instructor at one of the LC-MS seminaries was a SEAL. He recognized me as a Marine; I knew he had an abiding love of mud; we shared a beer or two with appropriate barbs exchanged. Beware SEALS – they love mud and blood even more than jarheads.
    Semper Fi,
    Dennis

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    “In Louisiana, a man duped the governor into believing he was the lone survivor of a Navy SEAL team ambushed in Afghanistan.”

    Ambushed by what? Half the Chinese army?

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    “In Louisiana, a man duped the governor into believing he was the lone survivor of a Navy SEAL team ambushed in Afghanistan.”

    Ambushed by what? Half the Chinese army?

  • Louis

    It is the same mentality that makes you claim you went to Harvard when you did not, are very wealthy when you aren’t, are an investment banker when you’re not… ;)

  • Louis

    It is the same mentality that makes you claim you went to Harvard when you did not, are very wealthy when you aren’t, are an investment banker when you’re not… ;)

  • Tom Hering

    … or a more faithful and sinless Christian than you are.

  • Tom Hering

    … or a more faithful and sinless Christian than you are.

  • trotk

    Louis and Tom -

    Let’s see if they catch the references.

  • trotk

    Louis and Tom -

    Let’s see if they catch the references.

  • SKPeterson

    trotk – where has Peter gone?

  • SKPeterson

    trotk – where has Peter gone?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@10), he just stopped commenting.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@10), he just stopped commenting.

  • Jon

    I went to Harvard. Of course, it was to attend a political speech at the Law School almost 25 years ago. So, yes, I can say, “I went to Harvard Law School,” and be truthful, if you don’t interpret “went” to mean “enrolled” and “graduated.” But why would you? I simply said I “went.” But I did neglect to add, “for about 2 hours.”

    N.B. I’ve never been a Navy Seal, though I like seals and have been to the Old Navy shop at the mall.

  • Jon

    I went to Harvard. Of course, it was to attend a political speech at the Law School almost 25 years ago. So, yes, I can say, “I went to Harvard Law School,” and be truthful, if you don’t interpret “went” to mean “enrolled” and “graduated.” But why would you? I simply said I “went.” But I did neglect to add, “for about 2 hours.”

    N.B. I’ve never been a Navy Seal, though I like seals and have been to the Old Navy shop at the mall.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I could make you a navy seal, and it wouldn’t take years of training. Just a yard or two of dark blue fabric, some stuffing, and a few hours of cutting and sewing.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I could make you a navy seal, and it wouldn’t take years of training. Just a yard or two of dark blue fabric, some stuffing, and a few hours of cutting and sewing.

  • Tom Hering

    Can you make me one with a rainbow mane? I’ve spent years researching seals and am very knowledgeable. So don’t try one of your pitiful playground comebacks like “seals don’t have manes.” It would be very REVEALING!

  • Tom Hering

    Can you make me one with a rainbow mane? I’ve spent years researching seals and am very knowledgeable. So don’t try one of your pitiful playground comebacks like “seals don’t have manes.” It would be very REVEALING!

  • Matt

    A great book that emphasizes joining the US military in general and specifically the Navy Seals out of a desire to serve is The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, The Making of a Navy Seal. Ripe from gaining his Ph.D from Oxford (he was a Rhodes Scholar) the author could have either continued his academic career at Oxford or made a huge salary in the private sector, yet decided the best way to serve his fellow man was to join the Navy Seals. That takes a high degree of courage and a desire to serve that’s rare in today’s society. A highly recommended read for those who enjoy books on military service.

  • Matt

    A great book that emphasizes joining the US military in general and specifically the Navy Seals out of a desire to serve is The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, The Making of a Navy Seal. Ripe from gaining his Ph.D from Oxford (he was a Rhodes Scholar) the author could have either continued his academic career at Oxford or made a huge salary in the private sector, yet decided the best way to serve his fellow man was to join the Navy Seals. That takes a high degree of courage and a desire to serve that’s rare in today’s society. A highly recommended read for those who enjoy books on military service.

  • trotk

    Poor Tom, he thinks seals have manes. All serious scholars, or at least the one whose book I purchased, argue that Lutheran seals who are serious theologians have crossed the Tiber.

    It’s all Luther’s fault.

  • trotk

    Poor Tom, he thinks seals have manes. All serious scholars, or at least the one whose book I purchased, argue that Lutheran seals who are serious theologians have crossed the Tiber.

    It’s all Luther’s fault.

  • http://www.moosecreekforge.com Steve Robinson

    @Lars… you are misinformed. I served in the US Navy with SEAL Team ONE (that’s MY name in the story at the top of the page), and I served with James George “Jesse Ventura” Janos. He graduated from training in Nov 1970, I graduated in Feb 1971. He served initially with UDT-12, and I with SEAL Team ONE. He was stationed in the Philippines but was called upon to serve briefly in Vietnam in a SEAL billet. He received instruction in all essential SEAL skills (including classes I taught related to communications and electronics), and ultimately he was a member of RESERVE SEAL TEAM ONE. The naysayers who decry or deny his claims have a political bone to pick, but their words are empty/hollow. Jim Janos was and is a real Navy SEAL. We worked out together on the martial arts mats, and he was in the classes I taught as a SEAL Team instructor. I don’t always agree with his politics or his public profile, but he was and is a Navy SEAL Teammate!

    Steve Robinson RM2(SEAL) USN 1970-1978 SEAL Team ONE
    Author “NO GUTS NO GLORY – Unmasking Navy SEAL Imposters”

  • http://www.moosecreekforge.com Steve Robinson

    @Lars… you are misinformed. I served in the US Navy with SEAL Team ONE (that’s MY name in the story at the top of the page), and I served with James George “Jesse Ventura” Janos. He graduated from training in Nov 1970, I graduated in Feb 1971. He served initially with UDT-12, and I with SEAL Team ONE. He was stationed in the Philippines but was called upon to serve briefly in Vietnam in a SEAL billet. He received instruction in all essential SEAL skills (including classes I taught related to communications and electronics), and ultimately he was a member of RESERVE SEAL TEAM ONE. The naysayers who decry or deny his claims have a political bone to pick, but their words are empty/hollow. Jim Janos was and is a real Navy SEAL. We worked out together on the martial arts mats, and he was in the classes I taught as a SEAL Team instructor. I don’t always agree with his politics or his public profile, but he was and is a Navy SEAL Teammate!

    Steve Robinson RM2(SEAL) USN 1970-1978 SEAL Team ONE
    Author “NO GUTS NO GLORY – Unmasking Navy SEAL Imposters”


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