Joint Base Lewis-McChord is distancing itself from a Pennsylvania man caught in a viral video falsely claiming to be one of the base’s Army Rangers.
Officials have no record of the man, Sean Yetman, serving in the Army at JBLM, base spokesman Joe Kubistek said.
Yetman also did not serve in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. It’s an elite Special Operations unit that has deployed 20 times to Iraq and Afghanistan since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Ranger Regiment.
A video of Army veteran Ryan Berk confronting Yetman while shopping in a mall on Black Friday has been viewed more than 3.2 million times on YouTube and has been discussed on Fox News and on “Good Morning America.”
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Yetman is “impersonating in the uniform people died for,” Berk, 26, told The Allentown Morning Call newspaper. “He was wearing awards that I earned and he didn’t.”
A Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether Yetman committed a crime while shopping. It is not illegal for a civilian to claim to be a military service member, but the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 prohibits civilians from seeking financial gain by lying about military service.
The Justice Department would not confirm or deny to Army Times whether it was following up on U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick’s request for an investigation into Yetman’s impersonation of a soldier.
Berk was shopping at the Oxford Valley Mall in eastern Pennsylvania when he noticed Yetman at a store wearing an Army uniform with a Ranger scroll — the insignia soldiers wear to show that they belong to the Ranger Regiment.
Berk wrote on his YouTube account that he knew Yetman was an impostor because Yetman’s placement of patches and badges on his uniform did not comply with Army regulations.
For instance, a U.S. flag patch was in the wrong location on Yetman’s arm. Also, he did not wear a combat badge even though he claimed to be a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
He also wore a combat infantry badge with three campaign medals. Soldiers are only eligible to receive one badge for serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or both, according to Army Human Resources Command.
In the video, Berk is seen drawing Yetman’s attention and then asks him a series of questions that infantrymen would know, such as where he attended basic training. Yetman gives an incorrect response to that question.
“Why is your flag so low on your shoulder? It should be up here,” Berk says.
“You got me on that one, bud.”
Yetman tells Berk he had just returned to Pennsylvania from Fort Lewis for the holidays. He says he’s on his way to meet with his sergeant major at the mall.
“Let’s see your sergeant major. You have lunch at the mall with your sergeant major on Black Friday?” Berk asks incredulously.
Berk calls the man a phony, while Yetman insists he’s a Ranger.
“Let me tell you something. If I was a phony, then I would not be wearing this uniform,” Yetman says.
“Stolen valor, right here,” Berk shouts while Yetman walks away. “Stolen valor!”