Marine Corps veteran and unofficial life coach Jack Mandaville has all the right answers for all the toughest questions. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
I’m pretty sure I just saw a stolen valor guy at the mall. Should I go back and confront him?
Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Garcia
Hello Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth!
Should you confront a potential stolen valor guy? Does the US leave its allies out to dry after making years of promises to them as they risked their lives for our rushed foreign policy decisions? That means YES! Grab your cell phone, get yourself worked up about his alleged actions, and get in there and start confronting him with the wrath of a suburban white woman who’s been waiting too long for her fast-food order.
Stolen valor people are just the pits. It’s not that they’re getting attention for unearned accomplishments in a relatively victimless crime. I’m okay with that. It’s that they’re not any good at stealing valor.
You see, Seth, stolen valor is an art form. It takes research. It takes planning. It takes performance. If you want to pretend to be the best, you have to be the best. I have no respect for stolen valor people because they typically don’t do it well the majority of the time.
Take myself, for example, I’ve been successfully doing stolen valor for almost three years now. In the winter of 2019, I was doing an international tour where I was entertaining the troops. After a particular show, one of them handed me his unit’s official hat as a thank-you for my selfless sacrifice of telling dick and fart jokes to deployed Americans for 10 minutes a night, and, upon returning to the United States, I immediately noticed how much attention it got me when I’d wear it around town — attention I absolutely cherished because I have repressed issues of abandonment. That’s when I decided to fully embrace the unit by falsely claiming to be a member of it.
But I wasn’t content with just saying I was a member of the United States Air Force’s RED HORSE community. I did my research so nobody would ever question it.
“Oh, what squadron were you with?” people could ask.
“The 820th Squadron based out of Nellis Air Force Base,” I could respond. Boom!
“Oh, you’re RED HORSE? Then what does it mean?” one inquisitive person might ask.
“Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers,” I would quickly respond. Boom!
The problem with most of these stolen valor dummies is that they forgo the art of subtlety and just swing for the fences. When you’re claiming to be a SEAL, Green Beret, Delta operator, or highly decorated Marine, you open yourself up for a lot more questions and scrutiny. But if you find yourself a niche military occupation or community, you significantly diminish the chances of being made.
Just remember: A fake SEAL and a fake supply clerk are getting the same discount at Applebee’s on Veterans Day. So stick with what will draw you the least amount of guff from some nosy real veteran while you chow down on your delicious mozzarella sticks.
To circle back and answer your question, start interrogating him and if he passes the smell test simply because you don’t care enough about the unit or occupation he’s claiming to be, then he’s probably not worth confronting at all.
I hope he’s worthy of his stolen valor.
I love you,
Jack Manford Mandaville I
This story first appeared in the Spring 2022 print edition of Coffee or Die Magazine in the Dear Jack column.
Jack Mandaville is a contributor at Coffee or Die. He liked being a Marine but loves being a civilian that does commentary on military culture because there’s no real sacrifice involved. He’s a satirical writer, entertainer, and amateur provocateur. His only real love outside his work opportunities is falling asleep to Netflix.
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