Posted on Jun 4, 2015
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This article was originally published on pennlive.com:
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An Army soldier attending Artsfest on Memorial Day thought something was fishy with the Marine uniform worn by 75-year-old Robert Ford, who was strolling along Front Street.

Ford's hat bore some wrinkles, according to the soldier's assessment, and his belt buckle looked too ornate for his rank.

The soldier enlisted the help of a Harrisburg police officer working at the event, who was a Marine, and together, they accused Ford of being a fraud.

"He's not a real Marine!" the officer shouted to the crowd gathered for the PennLive/Patriot-News Artsfest of Greater Harrisburg. "Stolen valor!"

"I was humiliated," said Ford, of Marysville.

The only problem is Ford did serve in the Marines from 1958 to 1964. He earned the rank of lance corporal.

"He's as legit as you can get," said Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and archivist from Pueblo, Colo., who is nationally recognized for detecting military fraud. Sterner confirmed Ford's military service this week through Headquarters Marine Corps.

The incident in Harrisburg, Sterner said, represents a troubling trend across the country of veterans becoming vigilantes.

Veterans are angry, Sterner said, after a federal law about "stolen valor," was struck down in 2012 and a meeker version passed in its place. Under the new law, few cases are being investigated or prosecuted against people who falsely claim military awards or service, Sterner said.

"The veteran community, frustrated and upset, is saying, 'OK. We'll do it ourselves,' " Sterner said. "But what it's leading to is a bunch of hot heads. ... There's a lot of bullying going on in the community now. It's almost like hunting game, going out looking for phonies."

In many cases, veterans or others who spot inconsistences are rewarded for their efforts. In Pennsylvania alone, people outed Jim Moats, of Newville, for his fake Navy Seal story; Brian Khan, of Harrisburg, for pretending to be a Marine; and Mark Kauffman, a veteran who's disabled status became an issue in March.

B.G. "Jug" Burkett, a Dallas-area Vietnam veteran who wrote a book entitled, "Stolen Valor," understands why people get upset at fakes who try to gain respect by claiming they served "shoulder to shoulder with those who gave their lives for America."

Burkett has helped in numerous prosecutions of fake military war heroes. But he said what happened in Harrisburg was a shame.

"I think that cop was out of line, approaching him like that with no evidence," Burkett said. "This is an older guy and maybe they didn't dress the same way 50 years ago."

Sterner agreed.

"I'd rather see a dozen phonies get kudos they don't deserve than besmirch the reputation of one innocent veteran," he said. "Even if I see something totally outlandish, I'm not going to jump. ... You don't just go up and confront people."

Ford asked to file a complaint with the Harrisburg Police Department over the way the officer, Detective John O'Connor, treated him. Capt. Deric Moody promised an investigation.

But as of Wednesday night, no one had contacted Ford or apologized to him. Moody told PennLive he still was trying to confirm Ford's military status.

Anthony Flaynik, the commandant of the local detachment of the Marine Corps League, said his group was doing their own investigation into the police department's actions.

"He gives up his time volunteering for honor guard for veteran funerals every three weeks," Flaynik said of Ford. "He comes out in the rain, shine, hot, cold. We need to do what we can to help him."

The incident

Ford has a tradition on Memorial Day. He dons his dress blue uniform, visits the cemetery, plays "Taps" on his bugle in a wreath-laying ceremony along the Susquehanna River, then attends Artsfest, where he looks for presents for his granddaughter.

But this year, as he was perusing the artware, a uniformed officer approached along with a man in civilian clothes.

The officer asked for Ford's unit and his military occupation specialty.

Ford answered and noted he specialized in machine guns, rockets and flame-throwers.

"I have to investigate for 'stolen valor,' " the officer said, which Ford said he found insulting.

Still, Ford let it pass and recommended the officer attend the wreath-laying ceremony next year. The officer simply walked away.

Ford returned to shopping, but 10 minutes later was again confronted by the officer in front of The Patriot-News booth.

"Where did you go to boot camp?" the officer said.

Ford said he couldn't figure out why the officer was questioning his service. Ford hadn't claimed any war heroics and his uniform bore no combat medals.

"What am I trying to do?" Ford said. "Impersonate a lance corporal who never served in combat?"

Things quickly escalated.

"What is your problem?" Ford asked.

The officer reiterated his demand.

Fed up, Ford told the officer to leave him alone in terms that contained an expletive.

That's when the officer started shouting, Ford said.

"You don't know where you went to boot camp," the officer said, according to Ford. "You aren't a Marine."

Ford said the soldier joined in, shouting: "Stolen Valor! This man is a fake!"

Embarrassed, Ford slinked away, but the men followed. When Ford stopped and turned to face them, Ford said the officer waved his hand over his holstered weapon as if he were ready to draw it on Ford.

"I was getting very nervous," Ford said. "I was afraid to reach for my wallet."

A woman working at The Patriot-News booth, who did not want her name published, confirmed Ford's account that the officer followed Ford and yelled that Ford wasn't a Marine.

The woman said the ordeal lasted about 10 to 15 minutes. She described the officer as being antagonistic and said she believed the officer was trying to get Ford to make a move.

Eventually, Ford did retrieve his wallet to show the officer his U.S. Veterans Affairs card. The officer motioned for the soldier to examine it, Ford said.

The soldier concluded that Ford's VA card was a "fake and that anybody can print those out," Ford said.

That's when Ford asked for the officer's supervisor. Ford walked a block or so to meet Capt. Moody, with the officer and soldier trailing.

Moody talked to Ford and inspected his identification cards by holding them up in the air and tilting them, drawing more attention and embarrassing Ford.

The kerfuffle attracted a television news crew.

"People were gawking at the scene," Ford said. "People must have been thinking this was really bad."

Eventually, Moody, also a Marine, reportedly told Ford "it would be best if he just left, to avoid the camera and all the people that were now watching."

Ford refused. He merged back in with the crowd, but noticed the officer lurking nearby, arms folded with his eyes fixed on Ford. Ford said he was disappointed Moody had not instructed the officer to move on.

Ford had hoped Moody would set things right. Instead, Ford said he felt even worse after the encounter.

"I felt their attitude was like, 'So what.' " Ford said. "I've spent almost my whole life working on veterans' issues."

Ford said he has launched programs to help veterans, is active in his local Marine Corp League and occasionally contributes letters about veterans' issues to the Opinion section of The Patriot-News.

Moody said the officer didn't curse nor put his hands on Ford so the incident didn't rise to the level of an internal affairs investigation. Instead, Moody said he was conducting an informal review of the incident.

"There were inconsistencies in his uniform," Moody said of Ford. "If an apology is due, then an apology is due."

Get evidence first

Experts who advocate for veterans and root out military fraud say public humiliation is not the way to go when one suspects something askew about a military uniform.

Older soldiers can forget the proper order of ribbons, but "that doesn't mean they're a phony," said Sterner, who runs a website called Home for Heroes. "Even real heroes make mistakes."

Sterner has accumulated a database of top military war medals as one method to guard against fraudulent claims.

Even with Sterner's background, he said he has only confronted one person in 15 years over "stolen valor" and that's because he knew the names of all the medal recipients for a particular award being claimed.

Sterner recommended that people concerned with military fraud should simply take down a person's information and "get their ducks in a row."

"I'm not going to confront or accost someone," Sterner said. "I'm going to get my evidence first."

Burkett, who lectures FBI agents and government-fraud investigators, advises on his website how people can check their suspicions by requesting the actual military records.

"I'm just surprised at this cop," Burkett said. "Most of the time, a real vet would not do that. ... People should ask questions first, then go check things out later."

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2015/06/harrisburg_artsfest_veteran_st.html#incart_m-rpt-2
Posted in these groups: 524395_331088503647420_191451722_n Stolen Valor
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SPC Safety Coordinator
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"Ford said the soldier joined in, shouting: "Stolen Valor! This man is a fake!""

Unacceptable conduct. What happened to command presence? This looks more like he's trying to stir up a lynch-mob.
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SGT Jerry Ericsson
SGT Jerry Ericsson
>1 y
Last year when I renewed my DL, the lady asked for my DD214, I didn't have it along, but I did have my VA Photo ID, my Disabled Vet State Fishing and Hunting Permit, and such but no, if I wanted veteran on my DL I would have to go home and get my 214. Well I don't have veteran on my DL, and I will be DAMNED if I am going to carry my 214, but then I am not wearing my Vietnam Vet cap either so I should be safe, however I have been called up for stolen valor on line when posting, my usual response starts with an F and ends with an off, not worth the effort any more, screw em if they think I didn't serve, no hair off my ass and I will probably never see the assholes who accuse m anywhere anyhow.
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SMSgt Lawrence McCarter
SMSgt Lawrence McCarter
1 y
SGT Jerry Ericsson - I have Veteran's plates Myself and even showed a valid current Military ID card which they wouldn't accept, I had to go home and bring in a DD Form 214, which I did then got the plates. That didn't seem to make much sense to Me but it wasn't worth arguing about, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles Who issues the the plates and drivers license in totally set in their ways with no room to wiggle even with valid credentials. I wasn't going to throw a fit and didn't but it did take another separate trip. They were polite so at least that wasn't an issue but having been a civilian Police Officer also in Massachusetts I know the way the RMV operated and I'll leave it at that.
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Maj Pete Siegel
Maj Pete Siegel
1 y
I had the same experience renewing my TX DL. The DMV bureaucrat refused to accept my retir.ed ID. I politely said fugedditboutit. Not worth a urinary olympics. I will raise the issue with our state senator and representative.
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COL Jon Lopey
COL Jon Lopey
10 mo
I have commented on this subject before but I think retired service members and veterans are fairly good at spotting fakes masquerading as veterans; however, we need to be careful before we accuse someone of being a "stolen valor suspect" without verifying the facts. I have been in law enforcement for over 40-years and I have a veterans service officer (VSO) who works in my office. I can usually pick-out fakes by how they wear their uniforms or how they wear their ribbons, but some veterans simply make mistakes (some unintentional) and I have seen some older veterans with disabilities, including mental issues such as dementia, etc., who do some things that don't look right but they are still legitimate veterans. I am a law enforcement department head and I would expect my deputies, if they encounter such a situation, to gather the information and verify that info. and the evidence later before making statements or accusations that are not substantiated. I also think if a fraud is suspected it is usually better to challenge the individual in a non-confrontational way and it is usually better to do so in private and not involve a lot of other people. There are some laws that may be applicable (state and federal) if someone is a fake but a complaint can be filed later with the district attorney or US Attorney if the information is reasonably substantiated. I have asked my VSO to verify complaints I have received and I will normally tell the person involved that their records do not reflect the badges or medals they are wearing and suggest they request a correction to their service record or last DD 214. Usually, that will take care of the problem. I have also seen veterans entitled to valor awards but those awards were not reflected on their DD 214. Another point, sometimes veterans receive awards months or years after leaving the service. For example, I received a retirement decoration two years after retiring and that medal was never reflected on my prior DD 214s. Thanks - Great topic for a on-line analysis! Happy New Year...! COL L
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CSM Michael J. Uhlig
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Too insult this man and reduce his selfless service to that likened to a thief is ridiculous! However, I am sure this happens much more frequently than we know about, the one thing we learn as Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen is to be humble servants, humble servants to our country. Most of us will not boast of our service or brag about our accomplishments and for that reason, during that occasion which might motivate those that served before us to wear something patriotic, it is sure to catch the attention, and ire of the non hacker that will try to tear you down!
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SPC Steven Wade
SPC Steven Wade
9 mo
Exactly why I never go into public wearing anything just VFW meets and eat those free lunches. My whole family from the revolutionary war were veterans they went back to being poor farmers.
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SPC Steven Wade
SPC Steven Wade
9 mo
Not they won't, not in today's times and because this veteran has wrinkled hat and likes to collect pins so what just makes him a patriotic veteran and really who cares, he prob wasn't bothering anyone. Shouldn't be criminal unless a criminal doing crimes in uniform. I goto VFW meets all time my hat sideways or backward. But then the cops here haven't done service time and can barely even cop effectively. These cops wanna be gung-ho because they prob we're in corp but can't expect a civilian to be same standard, so happy in corp stay in the corp then or gung-ho on some criminals most of all do your jobs this obviously isn't their job or a civilians job of another veteran or even you tuber to make money off clicks and leave veterans alone they earned it. They aren't in the position to judge anyone never have been. He should sue for abuse of authority using the badge to elder abuse and public defamation. Sgt Ronald Petroski
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SPC Steven Wade
SPC Steven Wade
9 mo
Yup because the post videos on you tube and think it's funnySPC Charles Brown
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SPC Steven Wade
SPC Steven Wade
9 mo
Same I get better med care on my own never take a free lunch and very few even know I was in unless I'm at a VFW post kicking a few back font need the attention from the public besides who need worthless thank you nice as they are I like see people prove they were worth it by their actions history dictactes otherwise sad but trueSP5 David Cox
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PO1 John Miller
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47
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What a POS, both the cop and the Army veteran.

If I were there I would have come to the Marine's aid and defended him. There's a difference between stolen valor and not remembering every little detail about how to properly wear your uniform after 50 years!
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SMSgt Lawrence McCarter
SMSgt Lawrence McCarter
1 y
P01 Miller, You are correct, I remember the details of uniform wear but not everyone does, I've helped some guys even in our American Legion Post with that including one I knew for a fact was a Korean War veteran with two purple hearts and a Silver star. I helped Him replace and arrange his service ribbon bar for wear on His Legion uniform. I'd still have to have the charts though to show the correct order of service ribbons but otherwise except maybe for things that may change but then I know where to look for the current information also.
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SFC Richard Hart
SFC Richard Hart
4 mo
I was given a hard time when someone asked me where I took basic training quite a few years ago. I took basic training at Fort Campbell (no longer happens there) and my AIT was at Fort Ord., CA doesn't exist any more. Unless some of these soldiers, Airmen, seamen and marines were around 50 years ago they will not know what happened where. I keep thinking about all the different uniforms that I wore throughout my career. Any one for Khaki's? how about the lime green shirt worn with or with out the class A's. Our Class A's were a dark green and not the Dress Blue's that are worn as class A's today. I have been retired long enough that people who joined after I retired are retiring already. How can anyone of them possible know what was the proper uniform during my tours of service or which installation I served at. I recently joined a site called together we served, when I tried to input my assignments many of the units no longer exist, having been renamed, deactivated etc. Remember that old saying we used to have "innocent until proven guilty" Now a days its guilty even if you can eventually prove yourself innocent. When you do prove yourself authorized to wear what you have, the damage is done no one remembers the part where you showed you were authorized that uniform they only remember you being called out. Point to remember is how would you feel if someone did that to your family member or even yourself?
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PO2 Whitney Mulberry-Chaplin
PO2 Whitney Mulberry-Chaplin
2 mo
SMSgt Lawrence McCarter
I've had to Google the correct ribbon/medal line up a few times. Once you get past 2 or 3 and add 25 yrs the order escapes your tired mind. There's no shame in double checking your rigging before heading out in public for any event.
Funny thing: I still get on my adult kids about their "gig line" I can't stand to see belt buckle And buttons all over the place. Old habits.
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PO2 Whitney Mulberry-Chaplin
PO2 Whitney Mulberry-Chaplin
2 mo
SFC Richard Hart
We had an ordinance Chief so E-7 who wore "greens" as a daily working uniform. I'd never seen Navy wear these before. I was a boot...new to it all. It has something to do with Aviation and Ordinance. I'd have to look up regs to quote anything. This was 1986 in Lemoore CA. Huge Air base at one time. Idk what they have now. So many bases are closed out there now.
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