In 1998, a book titled Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History was published. Written by B.G. Burkett (a Vietnam Veteran) and Glenna Whitley, this book discusses and refutes the various myths of Vietnam (e.g. war crimes, homeless veterans). Stolen Valor also discusses the many fraudulent veterans of the Vietnam era, who not only have advanced the stereotype of Vietnam Veterans as drug addicts or mentally unstable individuals, but have tarnished those veterans who actually did serve in Vietnam. It should be noted that a majority of Vietnam Veterans would embark on successful careers upon returning home.
Aside from discussing the myths, stereotypes, and frauds, Burkett discusses the time he spent serving in Vietnam. He also discusses life after Vietnam, from a college course with an anti-war professor to a job interview resulting in the prospective employer throwing his resume in the trash after stating that he would not be hiring any Vietnam Veterans. Other experiences include people presuming he was mentally unstable since he had served in Vietnam, and his encounters with people claiming to be Vietnam Veterans.
Such experiences led him to do research on the matter, thus resulting in Stolen Valor. The people Burkett (and Whitley) have exposed consist of those who served in the armed forces during the Vietnam War but were stationed somewhere else to those claiming to have served in the Army but actually served in the Coast Guard. Actor Brian Dennehy is just one example. A Marine Corps veteran, he claims to have been wounded while serving in Vietnam, but it turns out that his injury was actually a knee injury from playing football while being stationed in Japan.
The various myths and stereotypes Burkett and Whitley discuss consist of the following: homeless veterans, drug addictions, minorities or lower-class citizens being drafted, the age and educational status of Vietnam Veterans, PTSD, Agent Orange, and war crimes.
Stolen Valor also discusses how many fraudulent veterans are able to deceive the public. Methods include purchasing license plates and war medals (such items can be bought at flea markets and other places), doctoring their service records, and coming up with fantastic stories. Thus, not only have they fooled the public, but they also have scammed the government.
This is because 1) as previously mentioned, they doctored their service records; and 2) the Department of Veterans Affairs does not bother to fully examine the service records of those claiming to have served in Vietnam (and state that they were traumatized). In the latter instance, I think this problem can be solved by placing the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Department of Defense. Thus, not only will there no longer be two separate workloads, but those working in the Veterans Affairs Division (a suitable name should it become part of the Defense Department) will have access to the complete records of veterans (e.g. DD-214). Doing so will root out anyone who lies or exaggerates their military service.
Of course, it isn’t just the Vietnam War being exploited by fraudulent veterans.
America’s recent wars have also been plagued by fakes and phonies (many of whom have been exposed). Which is why the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans groups, and other organizations need to verify all individuals who claimed to have served their country.
America has been deceived by these frauds for too long. It is time to let them know that they aren’t deceiving us anymore.