14 November 2009

Major Knucklehead

The Veteran's Day holiday last week found me listening to this story about a gentleman from California named Steven Burton. I've got pictures of him for your perusal.

An impressively decorated member of the United States Marine Corps...

...or is he?

The first photo shows the uniform of a Gunnery Sergeant. The second is that of a Lieutenant Colonel. Hmm. But he doesn't look any older in the officer photo! What gives?

Seems this fellow impersonated and claimed to be a Marine, evidently to impress women or get free drinks or some such. And, to borrow a phrase used by the villain at the end of every Scooby-Doo episode-'I'd have gotten away with it, if it weren't for that meddling Navy Lieutenant Commander!' Evidently the good commander saw this fellow parading around in his light colonel gear and thought 'This doesn't look right.'. She got his name, passed it along to the FBI, and they found out that this fellow was a banker, who probably never got any closer to the Marines than watching Major Dad on the tube.

I suspect it was his collection of medals that gave him away-Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart are the biggies. But also notice that the strap isn't straight on his cover (cap) in the top photo. The cover is tilted slightly as he's wearing it. His blue tunics aren't all that well-tailored-there are wrinkles where there shouldn't be any. It's impossible not to look sharp in the Marine dress uniform when it's made correctly. His just doesn't fit right.

Sorry. The Navy Cross isn't terribly far below the Medal of Honor, and those don't get just given away like the Defense Service Medal, which most armed forces members get just for showing up. Navy Cross holders are a small bunch, and they know who ain't in the club.

He also has badges for Presidential Service and Department of Defense Service-these indicate actually physically serving near the President and Joint Chiefs of Staff or Commandant of the Marine Corps. I'd buy the DoD Service badge only if he were a Command Sergant Major of the Marine Corps. I believe there's only one of them, and it isn't this guy.

With that many U.S. medals, there would most likely be a similar number of allied and foreign decorations, which are worn on the right side of the uniform. It shows a few in the sergeant's uniform, but I think he's got those incorporated in the 'fruit salad' on his officer's tunic. I'm kind of surprised he isn't sporting a Victoria Cross, Hero of the Russian Federation, and the big medal they gave Luke Skywalker for destroying the Death Star.

Finally, the last uniform regulations I saw prohibit the wearing of anything that aren't U.S. or other recognized country's ribbons, awards, medals, or sashes. The campaign button is probably out, then, troop.

Today's U.S. military hands out boatloads of ribbons and medals. A soldier can do his four years, never see anything more dangerous than a flat tire, and come out with a row of ribbons to pretty up his Class A's. But to collect this many medals, Mr. Burton would have to be a general-and in his 50s. He claimed to have seen combat in Fallujah. To have that many medals, he'd have to have been in more than one battle.

C'mon, man! Fallujah, Kuwait, and Khe Sanh? Who you crappin? You were at Iwo Jima? Nuh-uh!! Get outta here!

Just like all the people out there who claim to be Special Forces, or -ex Special Forces. If everyone was in the SF branch that claimed to be, there'd be approximately 14 million of them. There aren't. My rule of thumb is-if someone claimed to be in the Special Forces, he probably wasn't. Look for the quiet ones, or the ones that say 'No Comment'. Those people learned to keep their mouths shut early on in their career.

It is worth noting that it's illegal to impersonate a member of the Armed Forces. This guy is in some trouble. Now it's no problem to run around wearing some bits of surplus gear or rent a facsimile uniform for a Halloween party, but when you go around claiming to be in the service when you aren't, a lot of people have a problem with that. I recommend Mr. Burton not walk into the local VFW or Legion hall anytime soon.

You can read the entire account at The Smoking Gun.

Interesting. But I don't know if he's worth throwing in jail. Perhaps spending a few weeks with an R. Lee Ermey yelling in his earholes would do the trick. I pulled some sanitized Ermey from Space: Above and Beyond for your viewing pleasure-filmed at that most famous of USMC bases-RAAF Amberley. If you look close in one scene, you'll see our MickH shooting dice for beer money in one of the hangars.

No. Better use the Full Metal Jacket Ermey instead. More impact.

Odd. I'll be interested to see what happens to this guy.

yankeedog out.


  1. That rule about SF and not talking? Works here too, in Oz. I was involved in the early days of the first Paintball franchise here in Oz. They needed players for publicity, so they rounded up a bunch of us from Uni and elsewhere to play for the cameras.

    When we got to the battleground, among all us Junior Woodchuck types, there were these two older blokes -- nondescript fellows in their late forties. But they were good-humoured, fun, and they could shoot straight.

    They wound up on the opposite team from me, and for some reason, we got into a kind of friendly rivalry. (Probably because I managed to ping one of 'em from about fifty metres in one of the early charges. With the oldest-model carbine style paintball gun, mind you. While running. Yeah: pure ass, I assure you.)

    So we had this thing going. They'd hunt me. And I had a mate with me, so we'd hunt them. It was pretty funny, and by the end of the day, I think my mate and I were ahead of 'em maybe three kills to two.

    So we finished up and had a few beers, and in all the friendliness and the rest, we wound up asking what the hell they were doing there.

    They'd been military, they finally admitted. Saw service in Viet Nam. Thought the paintball thing might be a bit of fun. Just to see what it was all about, you know...

    ...and it was much, much later I found out from somebody in a position to know that they were both ex-SAS.

    Nice guys, both of 'em. I'm glad it was only a bunch of paint pellets.

  2. Yeah guys like this clown kill me. Most vets are like the ones Flint describe. I don't quite act like that but then I do not portray myself as anything other than a commo puke turned infantryman.

    He does look like a loser, doesn't he?

    On the Outer Marches

  3. There's no shortage of them is there.

    When people ask my cousin what he does his standard answer is "a bit of work for the navy".

    When pressed he may admit to doing "a bit of diving" but you won't find out more.

  4. If he's so keen perhaps his "volunteering" can be acceppted? Of course with his desire for medals you'd have to send him somewhere where the bullets were flying.

  5. Dirk-I suspect it was fun for them as well-but if they'd have wanted to seriously hunt you down, they could have done so and you'd not have known what hit you. Sounds like a good time-and you got to take a swing against the big leagues.

    I knew a guy who was stationed on a nuclear missile sub. When Tom Clancy wrote 'The Hunt For Red October', he said "Damn, he's writing about stuff I signed my life away not to talk about!"

    Murph-I'll sit and listen to vets brag all day. You're not out there saying "Back in '91, I beat an entire Iraqi platoon by beating them to death with the fruitcake in my MRE". Although that would make a good story.

    Mr. Burton does look a bit soft and pallid for doing all that stuff he claimed. Good call.

    Naut-Yep. And your cousin's probably been to some, er, shall we say, interesting places and done some, er, interesting things. Although any diving is in itself fraught with an element of risk.

    Bangar-I like the idea, but have you got something against the platoon that would have to take him?

  6. Nothing YDog, it'll all be solo missions.

  7. YD

    Happens here to.

    Bloke caught recently pretending to be ex vietnam vet and he was high up in the RSL organisation. ((RSL - Returned Servicemens League)

    Sad attention seekers mostly I guess.

  8. Bangar-There you go! One-man Force Recon team.

    Doc-A good assessment, I think.

    Gaz-Oh my! He had to have fooled quite a few people to get into an organization like that, although there may be a few like him in the VFW or American Legion.