Words by Mike Weisbecker.
The latest brouhaha is a video of two veterans confronting an individual in an Army Combat Uniform that wasn’t quite right in the shoulder tabs department. The individual had all the name and rank insignia on the uniform as well. Didn’t manage to get a cover to complete his ensemble. Unfortunately it was E-8 insignia being worn by an individual who would have had to have enlisted at the age of 10 to be wearing E-8 at his present age. The two vets challenged the individual and asked for his ID card. The individual said he didn’t have it with him. The vets pointed out quite vociferously the mismatched shoulder tabs (as in the airborne division flash didn’t have Rangers assigned to it nor EOD). The campus police were called and due to threats made by the vets, one of them was arrested.
Turns out as far as the law is concerned, the individual was within his rights to wear the ACU’s with all the insignia on it. Nothing has been turned up that he was actively trying to defraud people into receiving services or some sort of monetary gain from this.
Some of my friends who have not served seem to think it’s just some kid playing dress up. Um…no. It goes a bit deeper to those of us who have served. Had he just worn a set of unadorned ACU’s around in public this might not have bothered vets as much as him wearing it with name, rank and unit insignia.
He did an interview since. His reason for wearing it was to support family members serving. His grandfather who raised him stated that he suffered some unspecified trauma at the age of 3, causing him to suffer from PTSD and lead to him going to some special education classes and not finishing high school. He attempted to take the ASVAB but failed it (grandpa’s words, my guess is he didn’t score high enough in any area or failed to meet certain minimums to be able to enlist.
Supposedly he met a recruiter while taking a class at the local college who told him he would be able to help him get thru the ASVAB successfully and helped him obtain the uniform items he was wearing around campus.
To those of us who have served, anyone like this is stealing the respect from the public that we have earned with honorable service. That is why the vets who confronted him reacted the way they did.
Getting these uniforms and accoutrements is way too easy in the US. The Stolen Valor act covers the misuse of medals, but doesn’t go far enough into other uniform items. I hope his story of the mystery recruiter is false.
My belief is he wanted to serve so bad and when he couldn’t he got a hold of what he needed to parade around and steal our valor. I don’t think he did it maliciously as others have done. But he was properly called out. Want to honor your relatives who serve? Get a T-shirt, wear a bracelet. Volunteer at a VA hospital or home. Don’t walk around in a uniform you haven’t earned the right to wear.