When it comes to tracking down those who “steal valor” from those who actually earned it, there are not too many who have committed their lives to doing so.
For fake Navy SEALs, there is no other than retired Navy SEAL Don Shipley and for the rest of the military there is Anthony Anderson, the founder of Guardian of Valor.
Many have seen the viral videos of military impostors on social media, but according to the FBI there are millions that go unnoticed. The FBI estimates there are around 2.2 million people pretending to be Navy SEALs.
That is as many as 250 impostors for every actual Navy SEAL, which is close to 19,000 since the program started in 1943. Shipley said that of the 19,000 there are only about 9,000 still living today, making the number of impostors about 1,000 for every real SEAL.
“Most of the time when a guy actually served in the military and is claiming to be a SEAL, when we pull his records, he had a very bad run in the military. It’s something a lot of these guys are terribly ashamed of,” said Shipley to WFMY.
“For me personally, I think it’s despicable,” said Diana Hicks, an Army veteran and marketing director for Guardian of Valor. “When people steal our valor they are stealing from our brothers and sisters that never got to come home and they are stealing from wounded veterans that could use anything that they are taking from us.”
Putting these impostors behind bars it not always an easy task as just pretending does not necessarily break the law.
“The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 was signed by President Barack Obama on June 3, 2013. The Act makes it a federal crime to fraudulently claim to be a recipient of certain military decorations or medals in order to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.”
Investigators must prove that the impostors have or are intending to benefit from their fake persona. In 2012, Shipley busted a fake Navy SEAL by the name of William Burley but it was not enough to put him behind bars.
“Your DD-214 is a crock of shit and your resume is filled with so many holes,” said Shipley while confronting Burley on the phone in 2012.
It was not until 2016, when he admitted he devised a scheme to defraud IAS America and IAS International with his Navy SEAL identity, that he was convicted. Claiming to be a former Navy SEAL, he offered his services to International Aid Services America (IAS), a nonprofit Christian aid group, to negotiate with the captors of three aid workers who’d been kidnapped while doing humanitarian work in Somalia.
Shipley received around two to three fraudulent SEAL claims a day when he first started but now receives around twenty to thirty. If you believe someone is wrongfully claiming to be a Navy SEAL, you can contact Don Shipley at the Extreme SEAL Experience.
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