By Eric Dehm
Stolen Valor affects each branch of the military. John Lilyea at This Ain’t Hell and many others have illustrated that very clearly over the years. There are a number of impostors wearing the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, but there’s one thing that seems to draw the phonies like moths to a flame: The Navy SEAL trident.
During my thirteen years in the Navy, I met a handful of SEALs, and since leaving the service in 2011 have met a handful of “SEALs.” Those people out there that head out to the local bar and tell tales about them running through the jungles killing all manner of bad guys with their bare hands.
To a civilian, whose military knowledge comes mostly from Hollywood, those stories sound pretty legit. Veterans have a better nonsense detector, but some of the phony SEALs do their homework and have been known to convince vets that they are the real deal.
They have no such luck with Don Shipley.
Shipley joined the Navy in 1979 as a Boatswain’s Mate and a few years later decided to challenge himself and entered into SEAL training. He passed that training, and would serve as a member of SEAL Teams 1 and 2 before retiring in 2003 as a Senior Chief Petty Officer. Following his retirement Shipley joined Blackwater, serving as an overseas contractor and also ran the “Extreme SEAL Experience” which allowed civilians to take part in training exercises based on what SEALs actually do.
But what Shipley has become most known for following his retirement, is outing members of the large phony SEAL community, and doing so publicly, often documented on his popular YouTube account. Most recently, he made headlines for calling out John Garofalo after he went on national TV claiming to have been a SEAL during the Vietnam war.
“The first thing is when you hear that he was a SEAL in Vietnam, your antennas go straight through the roof,” Shipley said during an appearance on Connecting Vets’ The Morning Briefing. “There were less than 300 SEALs ever served in Vietnam during the entire war.”
So Shipley started looking into it and called Garofalo to ask him some questions. He says Garofalo had been fielding media calls all morning and seemed excited at the beginning of the call. That excitement was short lived.
“I went to work on him about his class number,” Shipley recalled. “I said, ‘There’s no listing of you ever having served as a Navy SEAL,’ and he said, ‘You’re that guy on the internet aren’t you?’ Yeah, I’m that guy on the internet.”
Garofalo agreed to correct the issue, and Shipley says he was happy to leave it at that. Garofalo called to say that he had come clean to Fox News and the story had been taken down. However, considering that the man had already lied about being a SEAL, Shipley decided to check and found the story was still running. So he went to work, contacting the news organization himself to let them know the deal and it was taken down shortly thereafter.
John Garofalo learned what so many SEAL impostors have before, pulling the wool over the eyes of somebody at a bar, or even a national news organization is one thing. Fooling Don Shipley? Well, I’d say it’s another thing, but it isn’t a thing at all. It simply doesn’t happen.
So if you’re pretending to be a SEAL, enjoy it while it lasts because one day when your phone rings, the Senior Chief is going to be on the other end, and the party will be over.
To hear more about Don Shipley’s time in the SEALs, his transition to civilian life and the crazy amount of phony SEALs plying their trade on dating websites, you can listen to the full interview from The Morning Briefing below. To download and listen anytime, click the share button and select the download option.