AJ Dicken, Fake Navy SEAL

The Panera Breads near my house has good coffee. Slightly burnt, but in a good Navy way. Plus they have a frequent visitor card. That is, if you swing by often enough, you win free schtuff. Like bagels and coffee. It did not take me long to realize that the algorithm (computer program picking the winners) is set to go heavy at the beginning and slackens off with time. If you don’t spend your winnings, they languish in your account and you don’t win more. I confirmed my non-scientific findings with a couple of the coffee girls who work there. (Yes, I may be thinking too much about this.)

My point: I like Panera. I go there fairly often. And one afternoon, an enormous dude wearing a SEAL baseball cap ambled over to me. He greeted me with: Hey El Tee.

I noticed the Trident shirt and actually thought: Gee this seems like a blogpost waiting to happen. So I probably played along more than I should have.

Hi, I replied.

He asked me my job and I told him a very boring version, hoping my dull garlic would ward off this Navy vampire.

He launched into some bs story about using crypto gear when he was on the Teams. And he mentioned the gear. He spoke of it like a guy who read a magazine article on the capability. It was just a secure radio and he spoke of it like a nuke.

His daughter or granddaughter stood behind him, so I did not say anything. I did not really chat much more with him. But wished him well. I was serious-minded and did not take any of his Navy bait that I take with some of the other Navy folks I chat with. Could he have been a real SEAL? Perhaps, but unlikely. I imagined he served stateside somewhere and wanted a history. There is no shame in the truth. A hey I was a Yeoman and I served in Norfolk. I would have had more reason to chat with him if his appearance matched his story. I don’t imagine there are many 300 pound Navy SEALs. Who are so open about their  service.

Then there is the story of this SEAL faker, AJ Dicken, who worked as a Lake Tahoe bartender. And the usual unusual stories began to fly:

Dicken closed the deal with a DD-214 — discharge papers saying he served 35 years in naval special warfare, 291 classified central intelligence operations, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, awarded the bronze Star, Silver Star, Navy Cross, two Purple Hearts, six counter-terrorist service medals, and nine presidential citations.

Noyes: “Give me the one sentence pitch on the documentary, what was the documentary going to be?”
Vested: “‘A Soldier’s Story,’ based on what he gave us, the most highly decorated Navy SEAL in the history of the Navy SEALs.”

AJ Dicken, Fake SEAL

AJ Dicken, Fake SEAL

Noyes: “And you paid him the money.”
Vested: “It’s just over $50,000.”

After signing away rights to his life story, Dicken began sending page upon page of suggested plot lines. He wrote, “I have answered questions on a regular basis about what it is like to be a SEAL…What it is like to be in combat, man’s inhumanity to man, and to deal with the horrors of war…This story is my best recollection.”

But, Vested was doing his own research and uncovered a troubling fact (something the I-Team verified with the National Personnel Records Center) — that Dicken has never served a day in any branch of the U.S. Military.

Of course, AJ Dicken was no Yeoman in Norfolk. Just a bs’er.

Gunnery Sergeant John Crazy Bear

I am insatiably curious about the military. I know that sounds odd, considering that I am inside. The military. But I will talk to anyone in the service about their job/rating/MOS. And I frequently do. I particularly like chatting up the folks whose jobs I am not often around, for obvious reasons.

For example, I have a friend. She reads this blog every now and then (ahem) and she is close friends with a local SEAL. He is an OIC, over at some unit, and I keep telling her, Hey when are we going to roll over and chat your buddy up?

Random readers should encourage this sort of nosiness. It gives you more schtuff to read on this here blog. Every day, I will find something to post. Do you want to read that Elle Macpherson is a socialist or do you want to hear about a SEAL’s exploits?

Or would you prefer to read of this great American:

John Crazy Bear, a three-war veteran and retired Marine gunnery sergeant, shakes hands with Brig. Gen Thomas A. Gorry, commanding general, Marine Corps Installations East

It is a story of distant travels, perseverance and time, but one more name has made it home from Vietnam; John Crazy Bear.

The three-war veteran and retired gunnery sergeant, was reunited with the dog tag he lost during the Vietnam War in a ceremony held aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 17.

Crazy Bear, a Lakota Sioux Native American who was orphaned as a child, enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 14. He hitchhiked more than 400 miles to join a service he admits he knew almost nothing about.

And what did Gunnery Sergeant Crazy Bear say when he got the dog tag back?

“It looks like it’s been through heck and high water,” exclaimed Crazy Bear. “But I think I’d rather have it than a Navy Cross.”

Errr-rah! I wish he lived locally. So I could buy him lunch. And chat with him about Vietnam.

RIP Captain Skon, Navy Ace

Heroes, this country was founded upon their greatness. You can add one more to the honor roll of those who have passed on:

Warren Skon, Navy fighter pilot and ace of World War II crouches on the wing of his plane.

Warren A. “Andy” Skon, 92, a retired Navy captain who was an ace fighter pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II, died Jan. 19 at his home in McLean.

His wife of 67 years, Hazel M. Skon, also 92, died three days later at their McLean home. Both had pneumonia, their daughter Nancy Jedele said.

Capt. Skon was a highly decorated pilot who took part in several major air-combat operations during his two years as a naval aviator in the Pacific. He participated in the Navy’s first nighttime fighter actions from an aircraft carrier and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy’s highest award for wartime valor.

Amazing, his wife of 67 years passed just three days after him. God bless them both.

Great Americans and the Stolen Valor Act

Should claiming a medal you are not authorized to wear be a crime? Often, the person parading around with that Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, served in a minor role in the military. And they want to puff themselves up.

Now, there is a way to check a medal database. The gory details:

The issue might never have reached this stage if not for the efforts of Sterner, and her husband, Doug.

He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who has made it his work in recent years to ensure that service members get the recognition they deserve and expose those who falsely claim acts of heroism under fire. Rather than wait for the government to act, Doug Sterner has entered nearly 100,000 award citations since Civil War in his online database, including all 3,475 Medal of Honor winners in U.S. history. His archive is used by the Military Times newspapers, published by Gannett Co.

Pam Sterner went back to school in her early 40s at Colorado State University in Pueblo, Colo. In a political science course, she wrote a paper that grew out of her husband’s frustrations over phony award claimants whose worst punishment was public embarrassment. That paper eventually led to the Stolen Valor Act.

Doug and Pam Sterner photographed in Alexandria, Va. Pam is the author of a college paper that led to the drafting of a federal law in 2006, the Stolen Valor Act.

 The Sterners, two great Americans. We, in uniform, salute you. . .

The Marine Corps and Fallen Comrades

Strong military supporter and feisty bloggess Bookworm remarks on a book about a Marine Corps legend, Lieutenant General Victor Krulak:

I’ve finished reading the wonderful “Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine,” and am about to embark upon “Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War’s Greatest Untold Story–The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company.” One of the things that stands out in any book one reads about the Marines is the fact that they never leave their fallen comrades behind.

As for fallen comrades, I’ve wished I were one, once or twice in my career.

The first time was with a Marine Corps Colonel who came up to my solar plexus, maybe. I was new to my job, an Ensign, and was asked in a full room to give a brief biography.

I kept it short, mentioned that I was a prior linguist, my previous duty stations, and my alma mater. Berkeley. The good Colonel did not take kindly to my old school.

It was during this period that there were issues at the Marine Recruiting Station in Berkeley, so I don’t blame him.

He lowered his gaze and, with a disdainful squint, hissed: the enemy, he is amidst us. 

Smiling, I quickly distanced myself from Berkeley politics and aligned myself with the great academics Cal offered. The Colonel merely shrugged. . .

Last word concerning Lieutenant General Victor Krulak goes to the Honorable Bob Gates:

Krulak’s was, of course, a legendary career: Navy Cross; counter-insurgency advisor to the Joint Staff; commander of the Fleet Marines in the Pacific during the Vietnam War; and, father of a future Marine Commandant, Chuck Krulak. . .

Lance Corporal Donald Hogan, Marine Hero

I am sitting in my home away from home, Panera Bread. The traffic outside is all jerky bumpers and tire shrieks. A bummy dude with an expensive laptop sprawls a seat five feet from me. I finish reading this moving post on the Marine Corps and continue my duck hunt through the web for interesting stories to share. Posts, articles, pictures that capture me, waiting for me to do the same to them.

Then this story waves at me and I know I have to salute a great hero:

A Marine who died from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan was awarded the highest honor given to members of the Corps for his heroic actions as he hurled his body into a fellow serviceman and warned the rest of the his squad of the blast.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Tuesday that 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan is “now part of Marine lore along with the great heroes of the Corps” as he presented the fallen hero’s parents with the Navy Cross. He said his actions placed him among the “bravest and finest” in the Marines.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presents the Navy Cross posthumously to the parents of Lance Cpl. Donald J. Hogan

Thank you Lance Corporal. I can’t say much else. Other than, this chokes me up:

Hogan spotted a kite string on the road go taut in Taliban territory, a sign that a roadside bomb was about to go off. He flew into action, hurling his body into a fellow Marine and then running to the road to yell a warning to the rest of his squad before the blast killed him.

Hogan had wanted to join the Marine Corps since he was a young boy.

His father, Jim Hogan, said he was always proud of his son for following in the footsteps of his father, a Marine veteran of three wars from World War II to Vietnam. Speaking at the morning ceremony, Hogan thanked the Marine Corps for helping his son fulfill his lifelong dream.

“We will always be grateful,” Jim Hogan said.

Grace in action, both the son and the parents.

Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan

And then two thoughts filter in simultaneously. 1) I want to tell this shifty bum next to me to sit up and read of Lance Corporal Donald Hogan’s heroics. It cannot be but inspiring. And 2) I silently promise that if I am ever given the opportunity to assist a family, a wife, parents, kids, any relative of any of our fallen heroes, that I would do anything within my power. Gladly. Cut their lawn, tutor them in geometry, walk their dog. Yes, this and more. May God show me the way if it is to be. That is all.