Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Wannabe Phenomenon

By my Friend and Fellow Author 
John R. Barney Barnes  
Renowned author, educator, and cultural commentator Dr. William Bennett recently made an amazing observation of the “wannabe” phenomenon. He had somehow gleaned the fact that, on any given week-end in the bars and nightclubs across America, several thousand young men would claim to be navy SEALs. Since there are only about 2500 SEALs total one can only conclude…there must be a lot of SEAL wannabes.

Recently there have been numerous stories in the news of men who would assemble military uniforms of a combat unit in order to assume an identity in public, an identity that was patently false. The new leader of the Veteran’s Administration was recently caught in a lie claiming that he had served in Special Forces. Although he had completed Ranger School and had served in the 82nd Airborne, he had never served in a Ranger Battalion or in Special Forces. A Green Beret wannabe.

A few years ago I was serving as a ministry leader in a local church and came to know a young man about 32 years old. He often wore a navy blue cap embroidered with “Navy SEAL Instructor” on the front. I used to work with SEALs in combat so it was not unusual that I was drawn to him with the idea of discipleship. His story was that, while serving as a navy SEAL, he was injured in a training accident and was then temporarily re-assigned as a SEAL instructor.

Though plausible, the more I thought about his story the more specific questions I began to ask like, “what was your BUDS Class Number?” etc. Then one day he asked to meet with the men’s ministry leader and me where he tearfully confessed and asked for forgiveness…he just wanted out from under the lie he had been living. This man had served in the navy, had a wonderful wife and two lovely children, and had started a thriving business. However, the lie was stealing, killing, and destroying all that was really life to him.

Why would any man want to be a “wannabe” when he can be a “can be”? I am reminded of several scriptures that speak to this reality…If any man be in Christ he is a new creation…do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…you are God’s artistic masterpiece, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do…I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength…for openers.

While we might occasionally day dream about some movie character like Maximus, or some historical figure like William Wallace, the reality is that our wives, our children, our friends, our neighbors, our churches…all are looking to men to be their “real life action hero” every day. That is exactly what I told the young navy SEAL wannabe. He became and remains today a “can be”…an active Christ follower…the real life action hero that he was born to be. Truth always trumps fantasy.

Barney Barnes, 3-15-15

After I read Barney's thoughts, this was my reply. 

I left Charleston , South Carolina in the summer of 2012 and toured the country with my books. I visited approximately 60 military installations across the country, performing book signing events at the Exchange. Additionally, I set up tables at various gun shows from Alabama, Texas, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma. I met hundreds of thousands of people; all of them had a story to tell, many of them blatantly false. Many said they were veterans.

Like the guy in Denver at a gun show who was selling tickets to his "Special Forces High Risk Adventure Camp" for troubled teens. He was considerably overweight and wearing BDU's that were too small.  He was also sporting a Green Beret over his flat top, high and tight. He had the Special Forces Tab on his left and right shoulder and he wore the Combat Infantry Badge (2nd award) and the rank of full bird Colonel. He started to sweat profusely after he approached my table where a half dozen "Brothers" had gathered and they started to question him. He quickly disappeared, but was later seen behind the building, hot boxing a cigarette.

I decided early on not to become a self appointed "POSER" detective for two reasons.

1. I don't have time. There are just too many.

2. I already know of several groups who specialize in that and if needed, I will collect the necessary info and turn over the problem set to them. I learned of these groups when I released my first book  almost five years ago, when they went through the process of "Vetting" me.

I have also learned that often, when a reader brings up the subject to me at one of my events they are probably over compensating for their own actions or lies. Like the gentlemen in Fort Worth who briskly walked up to my table and screamed, "WHAT GROUP WAS YOU IN?" I smiled and replied, "Mostly 7th." He shouted, "MAC-V-SOG... VIETNAM!" and stormed off. No need to call the poser police. You see, every SF Brother knows what the V stands for; and besides, a true Brother would naturally be a little more subtle and glad to meet the other.  The encounter usually includes a man hug and our secret handshake.  ;)  

Earlier this year, a rather overtly plump... Okay let's be honest, a very obese man, approximately five-foot four and 350 pounds came to my table and described himself as a former police officer and proudly asked if I had heard of the "Stolen Valor Act." I smiled and handed him my business card, and suggested that if he had any questions about it or me then he should check out Professional Soldiers.com. He walked away without saying a word, sat at a table in the food court, retrieved his lap tap and started intently surfing the web. I never heard from him again.

I do appreciate the policing members of our respective military communities provide, and unfortunately my mission doesn't allow me the time to focus on that.  Still, like you I often wonder why men feel the need to exaggerate the truth about their service or lack there of. I also wonder about the "Former Police Officer" and his kind who feel the need to "Self appoint."    I realize now that only God knows the answers and so I don't let it bother me, much. 
Out of necessity, I choose to stay focused on other things; like being creative in a way that will bring honor and credit upon all those who serve or have served while honoring God in my own subtle way. 

Bottom line, I appreciate your thoughts on the subject Barney and the way you expressed your feelings through scripture. 

Be blessed my friend.

Steve Newman