While some might wonder why anyone would want to falsely claim military service, such “stolen valor” is very real in the United States, and it detracts from the true heroes who serve, and have served, and their earned recognitions, decorations and benefits.
People who steal valor, meaning falsely posing as a U.S. service member, do so to receive discounts, benefits and recognition in public to boost their egos, and more.
While the government can only do so much with its resources, the work to uncover who is lying or not often falls on people who have taken it upon themselves to protect the honor and prestige of U.S. military service members.
Guardian of Valor founder Anthony Anderson is one such citizen, and his group’s efforts have brought forward more than 60 cases that are featured on the site’s “Hall of Shame.”
Anderson and Guardian of Valor are arguably the most notable stolen valor investigative group in America.
The Hall of Shame is reserved for those who “would lie about Military service or embellish their military record,” according to Guardian of Valor. “Once an investigation is complete, and it is found that they embellished or fabricated military service, they are added here.”
“We get around fifty new cases per week, only a small percentage of these cases ever make it here,” the group points out. “If we can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person embellished or faked service, they won’t be posted here.”
Anderson and his team work tirelessly on such cases, and the site is funded through donations. Anderson is based in South Carolina.
In a recent interview with CBS This Morning, Anderson said: “We’ve had family members turn their own family members in. It’s crazy sometimes. I’ve had sons turn their dads in. I’ve had dads turn their sons in. It’s wild.”
When it comes to having proof beyond a doubt, Anderson said anyone accused of stolen valor is given the opportunity to explain themselves.
During the CBS interview, Anderson said Guardian of Valor never falsely accuses anyone.
“And we have never falsely accused anyone,” Anderson said.
“You don’t consider yourself a vigilante?” [CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor] asked.
“Not at all. No. We don’t go chasing these people. We give them all a chance to explain themselves,” Anderson said.
“Honor is a very important concept to us,” said Joe Plenzler, who represents the 2.2 million veterans of the American Legion. “So we don’t really look kindly on those who lie, cheat, steal.”
And why would someone lie about military service?
“[The attraction of glory is] just too great for some people,” Anderson told CBS. “They would rather impersonate instead of actually go raise their hand and serve their country.”
Anderson served in the Army more than 13 years, which included a tour in Afghanistan.
He has a team made up of several people who are constantly responding to and investigating email leads. The team does not expose anyone unless they are 100 percent certain it is a true case of stolen valor.