A trip to the Oxford Valley Mall turned into a National Day of Shaming for a shopper dressed in camouflage fatigues on Black Friday.
But today, the shame turned an even darker shade for the shopper who now is being accused of falsely posing as a U.S. Army Ranger in order to obtain special military discounts at mall stores.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) asked the U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia to determine if there was evidence of a federal crime, according to the Bucks County Courier Times.
The man’s nightmare began Friday and was captured on a video later posted to YouTube, where it has been viewed nearly 1.5 million times. He had just stepped out of a shoe store when he was approached by a real highly-decorated veteran.
Something about the man’s uniform didn’t look right to Ryan Berk, a recipient of the Purple Heart who served in Afghanistan as a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
Berk stopped the pudgy uniformed man on the pretext of introducing him to his young son. Berk pulled out his cell phone and hit “record.”
The man, who wore a name ribbon identifying himself as “Yetman,” was happy to meet the boy – at first. He did not remain in good humor for long.
Berk peppered Yetman with questions. The man claimed to be a U.S. Army Ranger, one of America’s elite fighting soldiers, and said he had served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I’m what’s called a TAC- 1,” the man said. “All I do is go out on missions.”
Berk, immediately suspicious, asked about inconsistencies with the man’s battle fatigues. The flag patch was too low on his arm and three Combat Infantryman Badges were affixed to his shoulder.
Anthony Anderson, an Army veteran who runs the Guardian of Valor website, said the three CIBs would tip off any real soldier.
“The CIB is a very prestigious award for an infantryman,” said Anderson. “You get shot at to earn that badge. And getting three CIBs is more rare than getting the Medal of Honor.”
Under Army regulations, only one CIB can be earned for fighting the Global War on Terror. Yetman claimed to have earned one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. “That would have been impossible,” Anderson said. “Only one is awarded for serving in both. It’s considered the same campaign.”
Dressed down by Berk, the uniformed man claimed he had “literally just got home from Fort Lewis” and was shopping with his Sergeant Major. Berk let loose with his disdain.
“Here it is, stolen valor at its finest,” jeered Ryan, as the uniformed man began to walk away. “Why don’t you just admit you’re a phony?”
Anderson said fake soldiers are becoming increasingly common. They most often pretend for the attention and recognition. Others use the uniform to receive exclusive military discounts at stores and restaurants.
Anderson said motives don’t matter. Though donning a uniform is protected as free speech, it’s illegal to claim unearned military awards or receive any discount under the pretext of being in the armed services.
It was unknown whether the uniformed man received any special treatment from any store at the mall.
“But if he was getting benefits from that he could be prosecuted under that law,” Anderson said, adding there was no U.S. Army Ranger with three CIBs named Yetman listed on any official record.