Is This Stolen Valor?

Community

The video begins as most of them do, with the man in focus fumbling through descriptions of the medals and patches on his fake military uniform while a disembodied voice coaxes him on.


“Oh, wow,” the voice says. “You’re awesome.”

As the camera pans across the man’s chest, we see a SEAL trident, an Army Special Forces insignia, a Silver Star with a valor device, a Purple Heart medal, and countless other decorations. Together they appear to represent one of the most distinguished careers in military history.

“What SEAL team were you in?” the voice asks.

“I wasn’t on a SEAL team,” says the man. “I went to SEAL training, and I had to go to top gun school, too. I went to all of that.”

After some more back and forth, the voice, which belongs to a Florida man named Jonathan Borrero, delivers the punchline he knows the audience is waiting for: “Nobody’s ever come at you and said, ‘stolen valor,’ man?”

Boom.

But the man doesn’t flinch.

Instead of backpedaling, the man, whose fake military name tag reads Colonel Douglas M. Reis, raises a salute and says, “When I see generals, generals even go to me like this, because I have more medals than they do.”

This is when it may begin to dawn on the viewer that Reis is completely oblivious to what’s going on. That he’s being made the subject of a video that will soon “make him famous” in one of the worst ways possible doesn’t appear to register at all. In fact, Reis seems to actually believe what everyone else can clearly see is untrue.

“I don’t know why I’m showing you all this,” he says. In the background, a woman in pink who at one point hands Reis his wallet looks silently on.

Borrero uploaded the video to his Facebook page on the evening of March 3 with an accompanying call to arms.

As the son of a Marine and a follower of military history I witnessed one of the worst cases of STOLEN VALOR ever today...

Posted by Jonathan Borrero on Thursday, March 3, 2016

These days, uploading a stolen valor video to the internet is like throwing steak into a piranha tank. And given the hyperbolic nature of Borrero’s claim — that he had discovered “one of the worst cases of STOLEN VALOR ever” — this video was a filet mignon. Within 72 hours of being posted, it racked up nearly three million views.

Many commenters were quick to call for blood. “OMG, I am Speechless,” one person lamented. “This Asshole Should Be Throat Punched.” Another wrote, “Dude this guy needs to be dragged in an alley way and have his ass beat!!!”

But an overwhelming number of people, including many veterans, rushed to Reis’ defense, and the conversation gradually shifted from “Look at this civilian masquerading as a decorated war hero” to “Why on Earth would someone endanger this man by making him the subject of a stolen valor video?”

“This man is definitely not mentally competent and is in no way trying to gain anything more than a positive attitude,” one commenter wrote, echoing a sentiment expressed by countless others, many of whom drew comparisons between Reis and a young child in a superhero costume. “Stolen Valor is a Mentally Competent person lying about serving in the military to gain special treatment.”

On March 5, Borrero responded to his haters with the following post:

However, Borrero’s logic falls apart at once under scrutiny. Had he really wanted to notify someone who knew Reis, he needed look no further than the woman who was standing right by his side. But he didn’t. Instead, he mocked Reis on camera, posted the video on Facebook with the hashtag #StolenValor, and encouraged his friends and family to “SHARE!!!”

To accuse someone of stealing anything is to accuse them of a crime. But if justice was what Borrero was aiming for, he missed the mark. The chances of a law enforcement official watching this video and then tracking Reis down are slim to not a chance in hell. For starters, while it’s illegal to profit financially by lying about military service, simply wearing unearned military medals is not a crime, a federal appeals court ruled in January. That’s not to say it doesn’t have very real consequences.

In October 2015, a man was physically assaulted at a bar in Sacramento after someone accused him of carrying a fake military ID. Not surprisingly, the victim, who had actually served more than a decade in the Marine Corps and fought in Fallujah, told a local CBS affiliate that his attacker yelled, “Stolen valor!” before breaking his leg.

All of this serves to illustrate why stolen valor is such a dangerous game. To make that accusation is to play judge and jury without having the evidence to effectively to do so. And to then blast a video of the “trial” across the internet is to, in my opinion, accept responsibility for whatever happens to the person you’ve just condemned before an audience of millions.

Look, I understand why stolen valor pisses a lot of veterans off. We went to war. We got in firefights. We got blown up. We killed people. We lost friends. And then we came home and nobody actually gave much of a shit. But it shouldn't matter, because that experience is worth a lot more than a pat on the back. Guys like these, that's usually all they're getting when they fool people into thinking they served. A pat on the back. Maybe a free meal at Applebee's.

Let them have it. They probably need it more than us.

(Islamic State Group/Al Furqan Media Network/Reuters)

CAIRO (Reuters) - After losing territory, ISIS fighters are turning to guerrilla war — and the group's newspaper is telling them exactly how to do it.

In recent weeks, IS's al-Naba online newspaper has encouraged followers to adopt guerrilla tactics and published detailed instructions on how to carry out hit-and-run operations.

The group is using such tactics in places where it aims to expand beyond Iraq and Syria. While IS has tried this approach before, the guidelines make clear the group is adopting it as standard operating procedure.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Alexandria Crawford)

A new survey of thousands of military families released on Wednesday paints a negative picture of privatized military housing, to say the least.

The Military Family Advisory Network surveyed 15,901 adults at 160 locations around the country who are either currently living in privatized military housing, or had lived in privatized housing within the last three years. One of the report's primary takeaways can be summarized in two lines: "Most responses, 93 percent, came from residents living in housing managed by six companies. None of them had average satisfaction rates at or above neutral."

Those six companies are Lincoln Military Housing, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Lendlease/Winn, Corvias, and Michaels.

What's behind these responses? MFAN points to the "culture of resilience" found in the military community for why military families may be downplaying the severity of their situations, or putting up with subpar conditions.

"[Military] families will try to manage grim living conditions without complaint," MFAN says in its report. "The norm of managing through challenges, no matter their severity, is deeply established in military family life."

Read More Show Less

The F-35 Joint Strike Program may be the most expensive weapons program in modern military history, but it looks as though the new border wall is giving the beleaguered aircraft a run for its money.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press/Austin American-Statesman/Jay Janner)

A Texas judge has ruled that a negligence lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense filed by victims of the Sutherland Springs church massacre in 2017 can go forward.

The suit meets the criteria to fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people to seek damages in certain cases if they can prove the U.S. Government was negligent, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Under most circumstances the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects the government from lawsuits, but in this case U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez held that failure of the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense to log shooter Devin Kelley's history of mental health problems and violent behavior in an FBI database made them potentially liable.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Amy Bushatz originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT -- Loose lips sink ships, but do they reveal too much about the hugely anticipated "Top Gun" sequel, "Top Gun: Maverick," filmed onboard in February?

Not on this carrier, they don't. Although sailors here dropped a few hints about spotting movie stars around the ship as it was docked in San Diego for the film shoot, no cats — or Tomcats — were let out of the bag.

"I can't talk about that," said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, who commands the Roosevelt.

Read More Show Less