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. Msjettexas,
    “@Prairie Rose . . . The day this clown wore that uniform was on black Friday and they were giving military either large discounts, free meals and or no tax charges. So this fake tub of goo took advantage of the deals by wearing the uniform to get them. I wonder why they changed the law to make it a minor offense to wear it for gain.”

    Yes, that is particularly reprehensible, and pretty much negates the possibility that he has some mental illness going on. Not being a Black Friday shopper (or much of a shopper at all if I can help it), I hadn’t realized that there were military service discounts. I’ll just climb back under my rock now. 😉

  2. I’m suddenly reminded of the scene in True Lies, where Jamie Lee Curtis was taken in by a con man pretending to be an international man of mystery. When Arnold Swarzenegger, the real spy, caught him, he peed his pants. He did have fun interrogating him, however.

  3. @Randyjet . . . It’s not illegal to wear a police uniform or federal officer uniform, it’s just illegal to pass yourself off as one. I was a Federal Officer and still have my uniform, jackets and all but I don’t wear them just for fun. The government has my badge because I left for a county job. As far as a police uniform, you can also wear those as well, but you cannot wear a badge or tell people that you are an officer of the law and conduct yourself as such. That’s why if you see anyone with a police uniform on, you have the right to ask to see their badge & ID.

    This guy was wrong when he wore the uniform and benefited from it monetarily. I believe in stricter laws because any terrorist can get & wear a uniform and try and pass themselves off as a federal officer, allowing them sida-badge access, but it’s up to other employees to challenge those who do not show their ID’s on the outside of their uniform or wear a badge. We’ve had federal officers whose uniforms were stolen whist they were being dry-cleaned.

    1. Msjett, The FACT is he is/was passing himself off as an ACTIVE duty Army Ranger. He was not just wearing his old BUs while shopping after retiring. He was wearing ILLEGALLY not one but THREE CI badges. As for police uniforms, just run around any city wearing such a thing without the badge and see what happens. Hell the cops illegally arrest people for video taping them. just think what they will do to somebody impersonating them with or without a badge.

  4. It is illegal to wear a police uniform or to pass oneself off as a Federal officer if you are not, so I think that this fool needs to be reminded of that fact. He is posing as an active duty soldier, and it is not a violation of any free speech right to arrest him, any more than it is a violation of free speech to ban people posing as law enforcement officers. He needs some time in jail or community service and he can wear the orange uniform the county provides free of charge.

  5. @Prairie Rose . . . The day this clown wore that uniform was on black Friday and they were giving military either large discounts, free meals and or no tax charges. So this fake tub of goo took advantage of the deals by wearing the uniform to get them. I wonder why they changed the law to make it a minor offense to wear it for gain.

    Here is a story on May 19, 2010 in New York Times and Prof. Turley put in a short article on it called ‘Not Some Walter Mitty’.

    My dad gave me his Navy uniform jacket. I used to wear it for fashion purposes with the sleeves rolled up with jeans, a gold tank and high heels. After 2001, I stopped wearing it, realizing it’s true purpose and not for fashion. 🙂

  6. Chuck Stanley,
    That’s too funny! 🙂

    Though, I’m still a bit conflicted–feeling bad for him that he should feel such a need to be noticed and/or compensate, and, being ticked with him for masquerading as a decorated soldier.

    On a side note, I’ve missed reading you posts. Glad to read you here. And, as for your articles, I have particularly enjoyed your posts on aviation issues in the past–any others up and coming?

  7. Prairie Rose,
    My clinical instinct suggests the guy suffers from a bad case of dickus minimus, and is trying to compensate.

    Unfortunately, it is probably terminal.

  8. Thanks for honoring my daughter’s service Aridog. There was a time at a different conservative blog that there was a vicious group of people who accused me of “stealing honor” and “inventing” my daughter and her service. That was as sickening as this guy in the video. Aridog, has his methods and discovered my daughter was for real and set them straight. I thank you Aridog for being honest and honorable.

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

  9. I think what Olly said at 1:25 PM. I enlisted in 1968 and “glory” was the very lat thing that would have come to my mind.

    I also agree with Inga at 12:16 PM….will wonders never cease 😉

    Inga’s daughter a Navy Corpsman, serving with US was in the conflagration at Camp Bastion, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, and it was the Marines who repulsed the attack, losing two IIRC. The corpsmen were definitely needed…and as a vet with experience with medics I can say unabashedly that they are among the bravest and most important people around you. No masquerading should be tolerated….and all who do this stunt should be unmasked and humiliated. Community service is an appropriate penalty…learn at least a little bit of what it means to serve. In my town, for the elderly, the city will provide a snow shoveling service if asked to do so by those elderly (I am old but not quit there yet) and with 6 to 12 inch snowfalls like the past couple years…I’d love to see a guy like handling the task. One of the very first serious casualties in the Iraq War was a medic, or corpsman, I don’t really remember now…but you will see him in sundry advertisement for veterans’ aide. He went to a fallen soldiers side during an on going fire fight…and was severally shot up performing his duty. No one not earning a CIB ( I didn’t) should ever wear one in any fashion.

  10. @99guspuppet ~

    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln

  11. Are this man’s issues a form of Munchausen’s?

    Doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, what do you think?

  12. @99guspuppet-do I detect a sneer there? synonyms: bravery, courage, pluck, nerve, daring, fearlessness, audacity, boldness, dauntlessness, stout-heartedness, heroism, backbone, spirit; More

    Yes – you are right – you cannot steal these qualities

  13. He is like so many others, just a wannabe. Very sad. No big deal unless we make it one

  14. If you admire the military culture in America …. this would be a big deal….. If you refuse to worship the military… as I do …. I get a big yawn over this. I don’t care. It is impossible to “steal” valor.

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