CLEVELAND, Ohio – John Jakeman always knew he wanted to be a fake veteran, ever since he grew up following his father Sullivan "Sully" Jakeman around to various veterans' reunions.
"As a boy I loved to play with the Purple Hearts and Distinguished Service Cross Dad pretends he was awarded in Vietnam," said Jakeman. "Those are powerful experiences to a young man."
Jakeman has big bootprints to follow. He is actually the third generation of Jakemans to fake military service. In addition to his father, his grandfather faked military service in World War II.
John spoke to reporters at a recent Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America event, where he addressed the crowd on his role in the Second Battle of Fallujah.
He later shared some of the family secrets on fake military service.
"Life can be pretty hard for the solitary 'artificial warfighter' as we like to call ourselves, but I was lucky enough to have my father and grandfather teach me how to avoid a lot of the mistakes that separate the professional wannabes from the wannabe wannabes."
According to Jakeman, the biggest trick is to not think big.
"Some of these new guys talk about being on the Bin Laden raid or doing secret operations in the Philippines that no one's ever heard of," said Jakeman.
"That may work with your average Joe on the street, but there are dedicated groups, like ReportStolenValor.org, out there who actually monitor the news for outlandish claims like that."
"Grandad was able to get away with saying he won the Medal of Honor because the records from that time are terrible, and most of the veterans are dead. But Dad recently had to swap out his Distinguished Service Cross for a Silver Star after people started to cross reference it."
"I think when I fake my first award, it'll be something small like a Navy Achievement Medal with a Combat "V". I can always say it should have been a Bronze Star, but my command fucked me over on it."
After shaking hands with several Gold Star Mothers who said how proud they were of him, Jakeman added that a good fake veteran always plays to the lowest common denominator.
"You have to understand that even after ten years of continuous warfare, most Americans only have a vague idea about what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. I usually say I was in Baghdad, Fallujah, or Kabul. Even Kandahar is a little too exotic for most people, and we've lost 400 soldiers out there."
Jakeman's father Sully was also in attendance to solicit funds for a ficticious organization that he claimed helps wounded veterans. He said that an even better trick is to play off peoples' political prejudices.
"People become a lot more gullible if you're telling them what they want to hear. You know, 'Bush was a war criminal', 'Obama's a closet Muslim', etc." Sully said.
"Back in 2004, I was pretending to be a Swift Boat veteran to raise money against John Kerry. Even when I slipped up and said I was in Vietnam in 1977, emotions were running so high that no one questioned it. Hell, I was almost on FOX News at one point."
When asked about the morality of faking military service, John claimed that his actions constituted a public service.
"Most Americans are both extraordinarily proud of our military and just as extraordinarily sure that their own kids should stay out of it. Unless you live near a military base, the War in Afghanistan might as well be on Neptune, for all it affects your daily life."
Jakeman added, “Today we have such a high demand to honor our nation’s veterans but an increasingly-fewer number of veterans left to actually honor. It’s people like me who allow the American public to feel good about themselves when they send our armed forces off to whatever hellhole they’ll be in for the next decade.”
UPDATE: When reached for further comment on the Supreme Court striking down the Stolen Valor Act, Jakeman said, "This is a great day for America. It's good to know that the Supreme Court values our service to the American public."