Marquette, MI — For one veteran the issue of stolen valor is more than a viral YouTube video meme. It truly hits home.
Lt. Col. John Landsteiner was all set to hang his valor up on the wall following his retirement last fall, thinking it would fit well in his Army-themed man-cave and serve as a great teaching point for his children.
He had taken his valor with him on three tours in Iraq from Samarra to Sadr City. Like a trusty poncho liner his valor has always been with him from the relative safety of sprawling FOBs to every combat patrol and IED blast.
But on his last tour in combat, this time to Afghanistan, Landsteiner left his valor safely at home in storage. As a self-described "staff-weenie" for Combined Joint Task Force 101 (CJTF-101) he assumed he wouldn’t need it. And he didn’t think about his valor again until returning to his hometown after his retirement.
But as he dug through final out paperwork, 237 pages of clothing records, countless pairs of four different styles of combat uniforms, 17 pairs of boots, and more angle flashlights than any person could ever possibly need, his anxiety began to grow.
He realized it was gone.
“I immediately called the police,” Landsteiner said. “I knew this was serious.”
The investigation went nowhere, however. Dispirited, he set out to find his valor on his own.
Landsteiner looked in all the places one would expect to find stolen valor. He went to strip clubs looking for crew-cut youngsters trolling for free lap dances. He wandered the malls, on the lookout for mismatched uniforms bearing ranger tabs and scuba bubbles. Landsteiner spent Veteran’s Day at every Applebee’s and Chili's in town hoping to find a “veteran” whose story just didn’t add up.
Still, Landsteiner came up short. But, as he told reporters, he took one more run at his stockpile of Army crap accumulated over 20 years of service. There in the basement, at the bottom of a long forgotten duffel bag, it was just as he had left it, somewhat tattered and worn from years of service but intact. His valor was found.