Matt Buckingham was uncovered by KMOV of St. Louis as a fake veteran soliciting donations to a fake military charity
STOLEN VALOR REDUX
By John J. Molloy, OSJ
National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition
Over the years since Vietnam veterans have been recognized for their service and patriotism rather than being disparaged as war criminals, a phenomenon has occurred whereby some veterans who have served in our armed forces, and other individuals who have never served at all, claimed to have distinguished themselves in combat or served as members of elite units. This situation has become so pronounced that it appears that a disproportionate number of veterans and non-veterans claim to have served in elite units — US Navy SEALS, US Army Special Forces, USAF Reconnaissance, Army Rangers, Marine Corps Force Recon or Scout Snipers or even prisoners of war — and wear decorations to which they are not entitled.
In the first few years of the last decade, I was disappointed to learn that a friend, the late founder and national commander of the Veterans of the Vietnam War, who claimed to have spent his tour in Southeast Asia as an Airborne Ranger/Phoenix Operative, had actually served as a truck driver. All of us who have served, and do serve in America’s armed forces, essentially sign a blank check payable to the United States of America, representing our commitment of our lives for the benefit of our country. Everyone who serves honorably, in whatever capacity, should not feel it necessary to embellish his or her record of service.
Despite the publication of Stolen Valor authored by B.G. Burkett in 1998, and Fake Warriors by Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer in 2003, the phonies and fakers continue to exit the woodwork and persist in their deception. The proliferation of fake veterans has led to the number of persons who claim to have served in Vietnam now exceeding several times over the number of those who are still alive who actually did serve.
In my own community, I have come across friends and others who are considered to be patriotic but who have been untruthful regarding their military service. Typically, on first acquaintance, these individuals offer some indication of the nature of their service and are given benefit of the doubt. But if one shows that they accept their claims, they begin to expand and embroider and so entrap themselves. What these deceivers fail to recognize is that in my capacity as Coalition chairman, and based on my familiarity with veterans and veterans’ issues, I can see through their deception and will seek to expose their falsehoods.
During the course of the year, and especially on anniversaries of their deaths, I reflect on my buddies and comrades with whom I’d served in the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, and 11th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam, but who did not return home alive:
- Sgt. David Fielding, 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, wounded on Nui Hoac Ridge, May 7, 1968 and killed by a sniper on July 7, 1968.
- SFC Abraham Ahuna, also of the 1st Platoon, who died on May 17, 1968 from wounds sustained from his fall into a pungi pit.
- Sgt, Wayne Proctor of the Weapons Platoon, Bravo Company who died on June 4, 1968 from wounds sustained after being hit by a white phosphorus rocket-propelled grenade on Nui Hoac Ridge a month earlier.
- Sgt. Ambrose Clay of Delta Company who was captured during the initial probe of Nui Hoac Ridge on May 7, 1968, and was tortured and beheaded by the North Vietnamese.
Sadly, the above are but a few of the fallen troopers.
Given the fact that the actual percentage of veterans in our armed forces actually assigned to a combat zone and actually engaged in combat is 10% for the Army and 15% for the Marine Corps, that so many veterans claim to have received combat-related awards is a statistical improbability. The fake veterans who steal the valor of those who had given their last full measure have become increasingly irritating. They must be exposed and publicly humiliated if they do not desist and acknowledge their deception.
While it is criminal to falsify one’s military records or wear decorations of the Silver Star for distinguished or gallant service, unfortunately it is not considered illegal to lie about one’s military service, however dishonorable. It is also not illegal for us to expose those who lie. Here are some signs that you may be dealing with an imposter:
- When the individual who claims to have served in a certain unit is asked what he did, he answers: “If I tell you, then I will have to kill you.”
- If a person claims to have been wounded in the military or claims to have what appears to be a service-connected disability when asked if they go to a Veterans Administration Hospital for treatment or if they are receiving a service-connected disability, they claim that they want nothing from the government.
If you come across an individual whose claims regarding their military service you suspect may be false, try to obtain as much information as you can, including the imposter’s full name, date of birth, period of service and unit. Once you have obtained that information, you may send an inquiry to fakewarriors.org, a division of the POW Network so that they may investigate. (Click here for Fake Warriors’ report form.) I also encourage you to consider sending a contribution to the POW Network for their dedication to and their diligence in obtaining the truth.
Once your suspicions are confirmed you will be in a position to confront and/or expose the individual who had made the false claim(s) regarding their military service. The method of exposure should be determined by the extent and nature of the falsehood.
Simply put, it is our moral obligation to uncover imposters who would steal the valor of those who have served honorably and died in our nation’s service.