Stolen Valor Video: Airborne Veteran Confronts Man Falsely Claiming To Be Army Ranger At Mall

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 5.50.05 AMI was on BBC yesterday talking about the Stolen Valor Act and the video below that has gone viral after a man was confronted in a mall on Black Friday by a veteran who called him out as a fake. (Warning: the video contains bad language). The man, identified as Sean Yetman, 30, walked by a real veteran from the famed 101st Airborne Division who was not buying the uniform or claim that Yetman is an Army Ranger. He spotted problems right away, starting with the multiple Combat Infantry badges.

547f84dd6f8ee.imageThere is a news report stating that Yetman was previously arrested while wearing the coat of a Philadelphia officer who died in the line of duty. In May, he pleaded guilty in Bucks County Court to impersonating a public servant, a second-degree misdemeanor and was given three months of probation for that crime along with a charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license. If it is the same individual, it would show a sad and continuing desire for social recognition and status. These people tend to desperately want to reinvent themselves and their lives.

I have previously criticized past prosecutions for stolen valor (here and here) as a threat to the first amendment. Such cases are deterred through social stigma and simple research, as it was here. The key to any criminal charge is whether the accused used the false claim to secure financial or monetary benefits, even discounts or special treatment at the mall. Obviously, a discount on a Happy Meal is not going to garner much punishment but prosecutors are likely to work hard to make a case when presented with this type of alleged crime.

What is impressive is that this fraud knew a fair amount of details but could not hold his own against Ryan Berk, from Easy Co. in the 101st. The detailed knowledge is not common with the relatively few frauds that create these lies. What is equally common is the exaggeration of rank and badges. These people are ultimately undone by their insatiable appetites for recognition — often promoting themselves to ridiculous levels like Major Generals or covering themselves with enough medals to make a Soviet General blush.

This encounter occurred in the Oxford Valley Mall near Philadelphia. Berk calls out the man and screams “Stolen Valor” and more profane descriptions as the man departs. One of the more humorous moments is when the man says that he is calling his “Sergeant Major” outside and Berk asks if he always goes shopping on Black Friday with his “Sergeant Major.” The man responds “sometimes.”

I was an outspoken critic of the original Stolen Valor Act was passed in 2005. It was later struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012 as violative of the First Amendment. Congress then passed a largely meaningless law that made it a crime to attempt to profit from lies based on military service. It is largely redundant with existing laws and is only subject to a fine, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.

66 thoughts on “Stolen Valor Video: Airborne Veteran Confronts Man Falsely Claiming To Be Army Ranger At Mall”

  1. randyjet said …

    Aridog the fact is that there are lots of people in the military who DO like combat and warfare. That is why they are in the military.

    Perhaps there are some but I am not a fan of the movie “Platoon’s” portrayal of that phenomena…it was a composite of nonsense in most of of its characterizations. Don’t admire much else about Oliver Stone’s work either…as a combat veteran he should know better. The highly trained react to adrenalin and not so much joy in the actual acts….they perceive it as duty not pleasure. At least that is my experience and opinion. The fact many seriously wounded recovered in Evac hospitals, then asked to return to their units, instead of an ITT, reflects loyalty to their fellow soldiers in their units, not a pleasure in fighting war. Most will tell you that they were fighting for the guys on their left and right…war narrows your window on the world more than almost any other event.

    So one cannot make blanket statements is the point.

    Point taken.

    People forget that it is the military who are the ones who pay the highest price of war.

    Service people do pay a high price, but my opinion is that the ultimate prices are paid by the children caught up in conflicts. This photo hangs in our living room to remind me of that. It was taken by a very young Marine circa 1965 and reflects the words of Jules Roy (from Hanoi in the mid 50’s) when he (paraphrasing now) said that when we must barricade against children, we are lost. The barbed wire encircling the kids in that photo is the image of that. Their smiles were happy ones, not anticipating what was to come.

    The US has had a tradition of being rebels, so there are advantages and disadvantages to that. The advantage is that US troops have a large amount of initiative.

    True enough and I believe it is more advantage than disadvantage.

    Other nations military complained that the US troops wanted to be liked and tried to go out of their way to do so. That is a FAR cry from Nazis.

    Agreed, and that supports what I said earlier.

  2. Retraction and apology….earlier I wrote:

    Thank you for your service.

    Almost nothing said bothers me more than that phrase. We did not provide a service like some chamber maid. I realize it is meant well, but think about it. Those who can’t, talk about it, those who can enlist. …

    The wording is awful and not what I meant to say. The snark about those who can and can’t was not meant to refer to those who say “Thank you”…but it reads that way.

    The truth is I realize that the phrase of thank you for your service is not meant to be condescending and I am sorry my response sounded like that. If anything I feel slightly embarrassed when someone says it to me, if I am wearing any indication of military service or they just happen to know it. Embarrassed because those, many whom I served with, who truly served didn’t come home or didn’t come home whole…and I feel guilt about that. I always feel I was more lucky than courageous.

    I apologize for letting momentary anger, at the bulk of the comment I was citing, get the better of me.

  3. I sure hope not–just felt that with a Calvin label only my wife could give me a tongue lashing–for overpaying for a peacoat!

    πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks, Paul…they are warm, but at the age of 51, that tongue lashing sticks with me to this day. I played it safe–I bought a Calvin Klein peacoat last year, with no room for epaulets!

  5. I found this story quite interesting. When I was 18, I greatly admired the military, yet I was unable to pass the physical (20/200 and 20/400 vision didn’t help). I had taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), but I wanted to fly like my father before me.

    When I couldn’t get in the Air Force for what I was looking for, I took to wearing a Navy Peacoat. A friend, for my birthday, gave me epaulets for my coat.

    I innocently walked into a recruiter’s office to see if I could join the Navy. The gentlemen in the office stood to attention, and saluted me. I turned around, but there was no one behind me, so I realized I had done something wrong. I apologized profusely after he gave me a tongue lashing.

    The reason for my story is to demonstrate the stupidity of this man. I was 18, and God as my witness, I thought epaulet’s were just for decoration more than rank. I quickly learned my lesson, and was shamed. I don’t think that peacoat has seen the light of day in 33 years.

    People that impersonate our military on purpose, whether they benefit monetarily or not, need to be stopped. It’s one thing to not know that you’re creating a faux-pas. I never claimed I was in the military, because I wasn’t. It’s kind of sick that this person carried this so far.

    Regards,

    Dennis

    SpeakOutUSA.com
    #SNHUSSM

  6. BarkinDog said…

    Thank you for your service.

    Almost nothing said bothers me more than that phrase. We did not provide a service like some chamber maid. I realize it is meant well, but think about it. Those who can’t, talk about it, those who can enlist. Or in my day drafted, and only some of us enlisted. Me, that enlistment would be just before Thanksgiving 1968.

    I can take that statement at the end of a sermon at a church but that is about it. We glorify war in this country and are at the edge of what Nazi Germany became. The 1933 Parallels. Sieg Heil.

    Tell me when you enlisted, please. Last I checked we did not say “Seig Heil”, nor did we think anything like a Nazi. Much of our military might is expended benevolently treating others, like the Navy does world wide in almost every disaster…even sending hospital ships to places without hospitals. THAT is a daily mission for the Navy. Tell me more about how we are war mongers. Our soldiers and Marines do similar work when they can…it is what we prefer. Where do you get these aberrant ideas? Soldiers and Marines do NOT glorify war, we just serve in them. Most of us don’t talk about the ugly things we experienced, but we do talk about the pleasant things…like my story about base ball bats, gloves, and some kids who didn’t hate us or me, who just wanted to play…it is remedial. I assure you. I doubt you understand that one bit. Know what, to this day I still miss those kids.

    1. Aridog the fact is that there are lots of people in the military who DO like combat and warfare. That is why they are in the military. When I was in, I got to shoot machine guns which was FUN! Of course, I realized that the next time I got to shoot one, it would not be as much fun since there would be return fire and I could get killed. So one cannot make blanket statements is the point. In fact, in my time in the Air Force, I would say that most of the troops were not eager to get shot at and kill or be killed. People forget that it is the military who are the ones who pay the highest price of war. The military usually knows the limits of firepower, and that was shown in the waging of the war in Iraq, when W Bush ignored the Army recommendation as to the force needed to do the job.

      It is ignorant to paint the US military as Nazi like. I have found that the US military is one of the least military of all nations. In fact, during WWII, they found that putting US units under even British command did not work well because US troops still had civilian attitudes and did not blindly follow orders. The US has had a tradition of being rebels, so there are advantages and disadvantages to that. The advantage is that US troops have a large amount of initiative. The disadvantage is that they will not follow stupid orders blindly or without question. Other nations military complained that the US troops wanted to be liked and tried to go out of their way to do so. That is a FAR cry from Nazis.

  7. I used to be a counselor and had empathy for my clients. But none of them wanted to cut my head off…that I knew of

  8. I believe in a militia. The Military Industrial Complex is a phrase coined by Ike when he was in his last day in office. He realized what had come about since Woodrow Wilson asked for the World War I Declaration of War against Germany and called it the war to make the world safe for democracy. We have had generation after generation since then believing in wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, a Hard Place, Iran, and on and on. It is a culture of war. Historians in a hundred years will compare us to the dumb Hessians. Kids who get the uniform on and go off to Afghanistan are just money fodder for the Koch Brothers.

  9. @randyjet. . . I agree with your assessment but there’s no law against wearing a uniform. However, if you wear a badge and it’s not theirs or pass yourself off as an officer, that’s a problem.

  10. @Maureen McCarthy “Wonder if the phoney Staff Sergeant will try to run for office”

    He could considering the majority in the Obama administration is phony!

    @Barkindog ~ I’m speechless by your hatred of military. You know if it wasn’t for our military, your words in another country would have had you beheaded!

  11. happypappies said …

    Aridog – you should be the one to give him the snow shovel with the appropriate glint and scowl ;

    Can’t do that, since the shovelers are inmates in the local jail sent out, closely supervised, to do community service. For now I have a great lawn and snow guy, never misses, whom I can afford to pay for the service.

    1. Aridog – inmates do the shoveling huh and your lawn is in great shape? I am having a fantasy here. Don’t ruin it. It’s all I have left πŸ™‚

  12. happypappies – what is Hillary thinking? Between that remark and her remark a couple of weeks ago about business not creating jobs, she will sabotage her own campaign before it starts.

  13. After WWII not many former Nazi soldiers went around with their armbands and uniforms. Americans do not necessarily have an exalted role in the world when it comes to military force. This guy had on his Waterboarder of The Year Award medal on and did not know what it meant.

    1. Barkin Dog – Ike believed in the Military Industrial Complex. The Koch Brothers do not own the World. China does. Look up the Seven Sisters. The Democrats have you brainwashed if you believe that. They only say Koch brothers all the time because they contribute heavily to Republican Campaign funding.

      1. happyp, Ike did not like the military industrial complex. If you know anything about it, Eisenhower was the person who CREATED it since he was given the task by Gen. Marshall of developing the industrial plan for supplying the war needs for the US military just before Pearl Harbor which is the anniversary today by the way. Ike was trained and raised in the old tradition pre-WWII of a small military to be fleshed out in times of war. He had no compunction about cutting the military budget and trying to reduce its part of the spending bills. Congressmen found it quite helpful for their political lives to make sure that military spending was healthy in their districts. So I think the fault is more in the Congress than the military.

  14. Thank you for your service. I can take that statement at the end of a sermon at a church but that is about it. We glorify war in this country and are at the edge of what Nazi Germany became. The 1933 Parallels. Sieg Heil.

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