Phony vets

Friend and fellow Moron, Cranky-D left a comment in our post on Stolen Valor:

Here’s my phony vet story. I am in a bar in my home town in Pennsylvania, during my temporary civilian period between enlistments. Some guy starts talking to me about when he was in Vietnam and that he’d been a SEAL. That should have been my first clue right there. Most of the people I’d known in the service who were SOMEBODY SPECIAL felt no need to advertise the fact. Then the guy is telling me about how they sprang ambushes down in the Delta. From a tactical perspective this shit sounds about right.

So I asked him when he’d been in Vietnam. On April 30, 1975 we’d gone on world-wide alert because of the evacuation of Saigon. I was guarding a refueling apron and fuel pumps on the other side of the world in Turkey. Dude told me he’d been in Vietnam in 1976.

I’m reminded of some of my encounters. When I was a recruiter, fairly often some old (well, older than me) guy would tell me he was in the service. Funny how so many of them said they were SEALs or Rangers or Special Forces. I usually didn’t pay much attention. Usually, you can spot the guys “padding their resume” as it were. There was this one time though… this guy told me he was Special Forces. I didn’t call him a liar, but I think I was pretty clear that I had heard this tale before. He finished his drink and left. Come the next day, here comes this same eguy again. Steelworker. Been in the mills I don’t know how long. Asks me to step outside. I didn’t know what his problem was, but I said sure. He walked to his car and opened the trunk. That got me a little nervous, who knows what’s in there. He reached in and pulled out…. The Distinguished Service Cross. With the citation. He had indeed been awarded the medal, had indeed been a Special Forces soldier in  Vietnam.

I aplogized profusely. But I learned a lesson. There are a hell of a lot of people out there that are heroes on the battlefield who come home and just go about their lives. This man, “Pickle” still took the time every year until he died to visit Ft. Bragg and see the Hmong tribesmen who he had served with in the Highlands. Hell of a guy, and I’m glad he forgave me being such an ass.

One other story didn’t have such a happy ending. I knew a fellow who was always on the edge of destitution. Sometimes he had an apartment, sometimes he bounced from place to place. He told me he had flown A-6 Intruders during the Vietnam war. He blamed his problems on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Said the missions he flew were that bad. Now, maybe flying in Vietnam was that bad. But he picked the wrong guy to tell that tale to. My dad was an A-6 pilot, and ran the training squadron on the East Coast during the late 60’s. I grew up with A-6s and the people who flew and fixed them. It pretty quickly became clear he hadn’t even seen an A-6. I felt bad for the guy. I could tell he was almost certainly a Navy vet of some sort. He knew just enough that I figured that, but for some reason, perhaps in the hopes that I would think more of him than just a failed man, he had to construct this tale. He died of cancer a sad and lonely man.