What harm do people who fake military service actually cause?
A question posted recently on Quora asked, “What harm do people who fake military service actually cause?” Check out these answers and add your own experiences below.
Dan Rosenthal, U.S. Army veteran
I’m going to approach this from a slightly different perspective than the other answers, which rightly point out there is harm in the fraudulent act of seeking free stuff, or greater weight of authority, etc. This is all certainly true. But there is another kind of fraud stemming from “Stolen Valor” is far, far more serious and far, far more dangerous.
It’s extremely common for fraudulent “vets” to tell stories of their fictional service that, due to the extra weight of authority and perceived experience of the storyteller’s military experience, are taken as the gospel truth. These stories then become part of a fictional public perception of what the military is, how it works, how soldiers operate, how they feel, how they act, what they experience etc.
In the United States, the concept of “support for the troops” is endemic. You can be in any state in the country, and minus a few obvious whackos, you will not find a single person who disagrees with the concept of “I support the troops.” But what does that actually mean? What is it that they are supporting? Despite this overwhelming support, in the U.S. we also have an overwhelming civilian-military divide, a knowledge and experience gap in which the vast majority of Americans simply don’t know much of anything about the military other than snippets they get from the news, TV, Hollywood, and games. There are several reasons for this – the shift from a draft to an all-volunteer military, greater generational access to fictionalized media, greater social tolerance for criticism of the military without reactionary cries of “un-Americanism,” etc. The reasons why don’t really matter as much as the existence of the gap itself.
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