One of the most dishonorable things you can do is lie about military service, yet many people are caught fabricating stories about their time in the Armed Forces all the time.
It can be difficult to corroborate these stories because the National Military Personnel Record Center is slow with processing times. So, if you request someone’s details, it’s not always helpful. Plus, this service requires the veteran’s signature before releasing any information; another roadblock to finding out the truth.
Equally as unfortunate, many people become obsessed with emulating service members to the point that a faker can make an incredibly convincing case. They may have done more research than you, especially if you’re not all that knowledgeable about a specific branch of the military.
To find out if someone is lying about their military service or not, here are a few tips that can help. Complete with which questions to ask and how to neutralize the situation if a veteran becomes offended by your prying, getting the facts straight is important to protecting the honor of those who actually served.
Questions to Ask Special Ops Service Members
Someone claiming to have served in special operations means they were a former Ranger, Delta Force, SEAL or Air Force Parajumper, for example. In those cases, there are a few foolproof questions you can ask them to make sure they’re not lying about their military service.
- Ask for their class number. In training, they would have chanted their class number over and over again. Ask for that number and if they can’t remember, chances are they’re a phony. It’s something that should be etched into their memory forever.
- Ask for their unit and location. Once you have their class number, unit, and base location, you’ll typically be able to easily look it up. You can see if everything correlates to assure that such units were actually stationed in a specific place at that time.
How to Vet Regular Service Members
Figuring out if a regular, non-special ops soldier is lying about their service can sometimes be tricky. Because there is so much information out there and some of these people can be well-versed in military information, catching them in a lie isn’t a straightforward process. Nonetheless, here are a few ways you can vet regular service members.
- Ask to see their DD-214 Form, otherwise known as their separation form from the Department of Defense. Veterans need this form to claim benefits and they’re likely to have kept theirs since it’s extremely difficult to get a hold of.
- Use jargon when asking questions. For example, Navy sailors use the term ratings instead of rank. So, if a claimed Navy man doesn’t know what their rating was, it’s time to press them further.
- Ask what they did and what their classification number was. This will give you a good idea of whether they’re telling the truth since each branch of the military has a different way of classifying their soldiers. For example, in the Army, classifications are made with two numbers and a letter (63D is an artillery mechanic) while the Marines use four-digit numbers (0313 is a crewmember in an LAV).
- Inquire about specific equipment used during their service. If you ask about what planes they flew or what ships they were on along with when and where this service took place, it will be easier to corroborate these facts with the public records of whichever squadron they served in.
What If the Veteran Gets Offended?
It’s not hard to imagine veterans getting offended by being asked to show hard evidence of their service to the United States, so it’s important to have a few ideas of what to say when that happens.
- Suggest that it’s patriotic to prove their service as to not offend the honor of all veterans.
- If you’re a reporter, defend the need for necessary documentation as a requirement for journalistic integrity.
- Make it seem like you’re genuinely interested in seeing the awards and documents as a historical artifact versus something to prove their trustworthiness.
However, it should be known that it’s certainly a red flag if someone refuses to show papers or answer specific questions. In many cases, true Veterans will be happy to prove their service.
It’s an important duty to find out the truth about military service and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. By taking the time to ask thoughtful questions and do your research, you’ll be honoring all the brave men and women who defend the United States every day as well as those who sacrificed so much for this country in the past.