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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 11 - July 17, 2001

  Opinion Column

Phony vets plague almost epidemic

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Two statistics from the Baltimore Sun newspaper should give all of us pause.

First: the Sun reports that since World War II, some 10,000 personnel have completed either "frogman" or SEAL training to become members of those elite, daring, secretive combat teams that specialize in sabotage, infiltration, deadly stealth strikes on enemy installations, hand-to-hand fighting.

Second: in the past six years, some 7,000 phonies — nearly equal to the actual number of authentic SEALs — have been exposed as impostor SEALs, according to retired Navy Capt. Larry Bailey, an ex-Seal who has joined a handful of others in tracking down and exposing fraudulent "vets" who deceive family, friends and the public with tales of non-existent battlefield exploits as soldiers, airmen and sailors.

The latest exposed impostor is a major big fish – Pulitzer Prize historian and Mount Holyoke College professor Joseph Ellis, who for years has been telling students and interviewers "war stories" of nonexistent service in Vietnam.

One wonders how many other thousands of phonies suffering lack of self-esteem are out there leading lives of lies, wearing undeserved medals, marching in patriot holiday parades or hanging around the Vietnam Memorial in Washington duping anyone who’ll listen about fictional acts of heroism?

The extent of fraudulent "vets" can be found on an Internet website www.pownetwork.org that lists a mountain of data under "Phonies."

As appalling as these pretenders are, they’re small in numbers compared to others spreading what surely is our most debilitating cultural disease — the widespread use of lies and deceit in business, politics and personal relationships to get ahead in the race for wealth, for fame, for success, for personal acceptance and for avoiding guilt.

The national shame is that deceit and lying incur few penalties.

President Clinton, preserved on videotape waggling his finger and lying about his adulterous affair with Monica Lewinsky, is now a $100,000-per-pop speaker and more popular than ever.

Sony Corp., which created a fictional film reviewer to mislead the public about its movies, apologizes for the fraud and goes on piling up box office millions.

And even those on whom the public relies the most for truth have been caught lying. The Big Five auditing firm of Arthur Anderson has just paid a $7 million fine for filing false and misleading audits for one of its clients, Waste Management Inc., then continues in business.

For those with a place in their heart and a place in their home for a pet dog, make a point of showing up at Adams Gulch trailhead today or any Wednesday and visit with pooches hanging around the Animal Shelter tent waiting to be adopted, or just hiked for a spell around the woods.

The shelter right now is experiencing a special need of adoptive homes: it has more than 60 dogs on hand, with shelter capacity for only about 50.

And shelter animals seem to have a special loyalty and personality because of their eagerness to have a home and a family.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.