More than ever, people are fabricating military service, specifically claiming service as a Navy SEAL with the death of Osama bin Laden, but luckily one group is busting the liars.
The claims surface as stray comments in bars, a line in a Facebook profile, or an insignia worn on a cap. The consequences are often nil. Pentagon officials have said they don’t have the resources to fact-check every potential liar.
So the only thing standing between SEAL impostors and the truth is a small band of veterans and civilian volunteers, scattered across the country, who have made it their life’s work to expose phonies in all aspects of military service, including bogus war medal recipients.
“Only 500 [SEALs] served in Vietnam. And we’ve met all 20,000 of them,” said Steve Robinson, a former SEAL in Forsyth, Mo., and author of “No Guts, No Glory: Unmasking Navy SEAL Imposters.”
When news of bin Laden’s death broke, these investigators say, they were soon overwhelmed by reports of suspected SEAL phonies. Robinson, who had hunted fake SEALs for 10 years, was called out of self-imposed retirement to help fellow volunteers track down claims.
SEAL impostors are among the easiest to catch. With a few clicks, their names can be run through a comprehensive and regularly updated database of all men who trained and served with the Naval Special Warfare units, which include the SEALs and their precursor units, from the end of World War II to the present day.
Once confronted, most impostors typically deny their lies, the boast-busters say. But a tiny minority fess up in hopes of redemption.
Considering there are only 7,000 living former Navy SEALS and just 2,200 active SEALS, claims of duty are a long shot:
Robinson estimates there are only 7,000 living former SEALs and 2,200 on active duty. By his calculations, the odds of running into someone who has played in the NFL are better than the odds of meeting a current or former SEAL.
From personal experience, legitimate Navy SEALS usually don't tell you they are SEALS. They are extremely humble, boasting is non-existent and overall downplay their role in the military despite extreme training in the harshest conditions the human body can handle and tremendous personal sacrifice.