Stan: But doctor, that's impossible. He was only in a reenactment.
Doctor: Oh, then it must be PTWRSD, Post-Traumatic War Reenactment Stress Disorder.
The Phony Veteran is a character who either lies outright about having any military service or, in the case they have actually served, greatly exaggerates their rank or achievements. Often, they will at best act as a Hero of Another Story, but are liable to being more of The Neidermeyer or a Drill Sergeant Nasty, ordering others around based upon their (fake) expertise and credentials. Others try to excuse their vicious or self-centered behavior with the claim that they are the Shell-Shocked Veteran. Phony Veterans are known in the British Army as "walts" or "Walter Mittys", after the title character of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", while in the US this is referred to as "Stolen Valor". Serially impersonating veterans is known as "walting" and grounds for a royal Humiliation Conga, often following an Impostor Exposing Test.
It's worth noting, that in the United States at least, laws have started to be passed making this behavior illegal, though at least one has been struck down by the Supreme Court as infringing on free speech (just falsely claiming to be a veteran is allowed, but falsely attempting to claim veterans' benefits is not). In Europe, it is flat out illegal in many circumstances. It is surprisingly easy to acquire the uniforms and even the medals for the bluff, given the ready availability of replica and genuine medals and decorations via eBay. However, given this modern age of the twitpic, YouTube, Facebook, the internet footprint, and the message board, those attempting to walt often find themselves internationally infamous for their stupidity, as there are plenty of genuine soldiers, not to mention medal experts, who will notice their bullshit, call them on it, and very often post their antics all over the web. Various veterans organizations do not take kindly to walts, and go to great lengths to combat and expose them (or, in the case of the British ARmy Rumour SErvice - ARRSE - publicly humiliate them).
Do note: As with all things, not everyone accused of being a phony veteran actually is one. There have been cases of actual vets being harassed or even attacked due to people not believing their claims.
- The police chief in Kirby of the Stars spends one episode bragging about how he served in the army, but it's later revealed that he was talking about his brother's former career to try and get some respect. When Police are Useless you can hardly blame him.
- According to a recent chapter of Black Lagoon, Dutch may be one of these, as a military character points to flaws in Dutch's accounts of serving in Vietnam and the fact that Dutch appears ignorant of G.I. lingo.
- Cat Shit One: A Japanese soldier photocopies some decorations and sticks them to his uniform. He lasts about five minutes before running into his remarkably humorless superior in the hallway, who asks where he got them.
- In the Superman comics, Robert DuBois has a mental breakdown and becomes obsessed with the Vietnam War, after learning that his brother, Michael aka "Micky" had gone to fight in his place and became a quadruple amputee. Robert starts claiming that he actually fought in the war alongside his brother. Lex Luthor equips him as the supervillain Bloodsport and sends him up against Superman.
- In Vigilante, Dave Winston (a.k.a. the Vigilante) is horrified when he runs across a man nicknamed 'Sarge' who fantasizes about the Vietnam War (the same war Dave served in) and falsely claims to have served.
- The Kev miniseries of The Authority has this... sort of. The protagonist goes along with his colleagues to meet another colleague who's at his book signing (they all work for the Intelligence Service, and all of them served, if relegated to Dirty Business due to the thing with the tiger). They read it along the way, laughing at the inconsistencies that are all over the place that turn the guy into a James Bond/Chuck Norris hybrid that served heroically in every conceivable elite regiment ("What'd he do, pass selection when he was twelve?"). When they meet with him, he confirms that it's all BS, but it doesn't matter, since the adoring public "only want fucking Rambo".
- Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Tailgate claims to have been a member of the Primal Vanguard during the days of Nova Prime, fighting off-world enemies and doing all manner of impressive deeds, as well as being a crew-member of the original Ark. It's all lies he made up when he learnt he'd spent six million years stuck in a hole and no-one ever came looking for him, which he admits when Cyclonus (who was on the original Ark) points it out.
- The Boys: One Legacy Character (a Captain Ersatz of Captain America) claims to have served in World War Two (the original one did, but was quickly killed as a result of his incompetence and starting the pattern of what happens when Vought Incorporated gets involved with warfare). When Billy (a veteran of the Falklands war) kills him, he tells him he's an insult to the men who truly served.
- Preacher: Jesse runs into a madman blasting holes in the desert. It turns out he'd always wanted to be an astronaut, even joining the Air Force (as a clerk) and faking the paperwork to become one... and was instantly discovered and kicked out (the fact that he was about two heads shorter than all the other candidates never occurred to him). Ever since, he's been planning his revenge by blasting out a "FUCK YOU" visible from space (and one astronaut does in fact see the message).
- An example where the character in question exaggerates their accomplishments occurs in Chicken Run. While Fowler is indeed an RAF veteran, he served with a human squadron as the mascot (certain British regiments do have animal mascots, such as the Royal Welch Fusiliers regimental goat). The other chickens think that he served as a pilot so when Ginger tells him to go pilot the airplane they built...
Fowler: 644 Squadron, Poultry Division - we were the mascots.
Ginger: You mean you never actually *flew* the plane?
Fowler: Good heavens, no! I'm a chicken! The Royal Air Force doesn't let chickens behind the controls of a complex aircraft!
- It bears mentioning that at no point does Fowler actually lie about his service or even intentionally withhold the truth - he just doesn't specify about what he really did, and other characters made the assumption based on his vague ramblings, to the point where he's genuinely surprised they thought he was claiming to be a pilot.
- Gru from Despicable Me had his minions write up false personal achievements for him. One of them was declaring that he had being awarded the Medal of Honor in 1991.
- Four Leaf Tayback in Tropic Thunder, who wrote a book that the titular movie was based on about his "experiences" in the Vietnam War (in truth he served in the Coast Guard as part of Sanitation Services). Although he later says that the book was meant to be a "Tribute" he keeps up the masquerade, including getting fake hooks for hands and acting like a Shell-Shocked Veteran.
- A Very Discreet Hero is about an ordinary young Frenchman who, in the post-WW2 years, invents for himself a heroic background as a Resistance fighter.
- Trading Places: Valentine's first scene has him panhandling while presenting himself as a blind and crippled Vietnam War veteran. When two cops, both veterans, question his story, it quickly falls apart.
- The bum harassing D-FENS in Falling Down uses this as one of his excuses to get money from him, claiming to be a Vietnam veteran despite only being around 30 at most.
D-FENS: What were you - a drummer boy? You must've been 10 years old.
- Todd/Han's would-be brother-in-law Chad in That's My Boy seems to be every possible negative stereotype of a dumb hyper-aggressive Marine, until we find out that he's actually a dumb hyper-aggressive Modern Jazz dancer who wears uniforms he buys on eBay... and fucks his sister. Up until The Reveal, he consistently gets military jargon wrong and wears a mix of Army and Marine uniforms. At the end, Donny points out how he makes real veterans look bad, in addition to all the other ways that he's an asswipe.
- The Reluctant Astronaut has the hometown hero at one point admitting to Don Knotts' character that he was never a soldier like he claimed: he was a librarian, and even his "war wound" was just the result of an on-the-job injury. Since Don Knotts' character has inadvertently been trumped up as an astronaut even though NASA simply hired him on as a janitor, this amounts to Oblivious Guilt Slinging.
- In Due Date Peter thinks that a guy they're talking to is one of these. When he comes out from behind his desk, he's in a wheelchair. And proceeds to beat Peter up. Ouch.
- 'General' Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights. General Puskin gives a scathing rundown of his actual military record, which begins with expulsion from West Point for cheating and goes down from there.
- Early in Payback, Villain Protagonist Porter passes by a beggar who claims to be a crippled Vietnam veteran. When Porter goes to take some of the "crippled" beggar's money, the guy immediately leaps to his feet and tries to stop Porter. Naturally, it's strongly hinted that he's lying about being a vet too.
- Ronin: When Sam suspects one of his colleagues isn't telling the truth about his background, he tests him with questions like "What's the color of the boathouse at Hereford?" Sam doesn't know either, but he knows that a real SAS veteran wouldn't have been so flustered by the question that Sam could get the drop on him.
- In Quick Change protagonist Grimm puts on a "deranged Vietnam vet" act as part of the bank robbery he and his two accomplices are staging. (He's also dressed as a clown.)
- Major Pollock from Separate Tables says he's a major who fought in the North African campaign of World War II, when in reality he never rose above the rank of Lieutenant and was a supply officer far away from any combat theater. See also the original play listed under Theatre below.
- In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Plutarch's original ideas for the promotional material involves Katniss standing in front of a CGI battle acting as if she's just rallied the troops. When it's pointed out that no one will believe Katniss's stilted lines and awkward delivery, she offers to actually go into the field and become the real deal.
- In Big Fish, Edward Bloom did fight in a war, but it's likely that his stories about serving on dozens of secret missions are heavily exaggerated.
- When Wyatt Earp first meets Tom Mix in Sunset, Earp mentions the articles about Mix's service with the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War and asks why there were a lot of drawings but no photos. Mix embarrassedly admits that those stories were a product of the studio publicity machine and that he'd never served.
- Thenardier of Les Misérables spent the Napoleonic Wars robbing corpses but boasts about his war heroism, had an inn with a patriotic title, and in the musical is introduced dressed as a Napoleonic soldier.
- In Hell's Faire, by John Ringo, when visiting No Name Key in Florida, Mike O'Neal Jr's claim of being in the military is initially questioned by the residents, thanks to them having been fooled, previously, by someone claiming to be a veteran to leech off of them.
- While he actually did serve in World War One, Grimes in Evelyn Waugh's novel Decline and Fall serves as an example. He is missing a leg, and while he received the injury after the war from being hit by a car, his pupils (he's a schoolmaster) assume that this was a war injury, a notion of which he does nothing to disabuse them.
- Inverted in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Taking Of Chelsea 426, with the character of the Major, an apparently senile old duffer forever droning on about his military career, with copious hints that he's really one of these. While he does prove to have a good deal of bravery and military knowledge, the punchline comes after his Heroic Sacrifice, when the Doctor reads the obituary of Field-Marshal Henry Whittington-Smythe and says "I knew he wasn't really a Major!"
- In Dave Barry's Big Trouble, Snake tries to take advantage of his new ankle injury by posing as a Vietnam vet, along with his bud Eddie. Nobody gives them anything, because they're obviously too young to have served in the Vietnam War.
- Deliberately presented in an ambiguous way in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby claims to have fought in Europe during World War One, and even presents a Montenegrin medal as a proof (which may or may not be fake).
- Sgt. Colon from the Discworld series actually was in the military, but he exaggerates his accomplishments. In the Watch, he's the resident Desk Jockey, so most other characters believe that he stayed in the back as much as possible in the army as well.
- The protagonist's con artist father in A Perfect Spy claims to have been tortured by the Gestapo while working behind the lines.
- In the Trainspotting episode "A Scottish Soldier" Johnny Swann (a drug dealer) is reduced to begging, while claiming he lost his leg in the Falklands War.
- In his account of the making of the Navy Seals, Damn Few, veteran Rorke Denver recounts the night his Seal unit went for a beer to find a guy sitting at the bar who was claiming to be a SEAL. His dress, attitude, demeanor and presentation were subtly wrong and a long-suffering waitress tipped them off that "Billy" used his Seal status to scare people. The least threatening real Seal was sent to quiz the suspicious Billy about where he'd been, who he'd trained with and what his combat specialties were. He failed on every test. When Billy went to the men's room, the largest and hardest Seal followed him in. A little discussion ensued and Billy ended up running for his life, stripped of his fake badges - which later ended up pinned to the real Seals' mess-room wall with a combat knife.
- In Doctor Sleep, Grandpa Flick adjusts what war he claims to be a veteran of periodically to match his apparent age. Being a military history buff, he manages to be reasonably convincing.
- Artemis Fowl: One character is mentioned to have served in a war, but he was bodyguarding a journalist well away from actual combat. Later he uses his experience to bmuster his way into a bodyguard job, but is woefully unprepared when actual trouble comes knocking.
- Honor Harrington: In the "greatly exaggerated" category, we have Citizen Brigadier Dennis Tresca, commandant of the prison planet Hades. He was a corporal in Internal Security before the Harris Assassination, but after his StateSec promotion he hacked his personnel records to say he was a Marine captain pre-coup.
- In the prologue of Cibola Burn, Bobbie Draper is approached by a beggar claiming to be a Ganymede war veteran. Bobbie, an actual Shell-Shocked Veteran who witnessed a Humanoid Abomination tearing her squadmates apart on Ganymede and igniting the conflict in the first place, doesn't buy into his story even for a moment.
- Played straight in "Real Deal Seal", Medal of Honor recipient and Navy Seal team leader Lieutenant Curtis Rivers rips off the SEAL-trident of a congressional candidate falsely claiming to have served in Vietnam as a Navy Seal.
- Subverted in "Take It like a Man" where a former Marine who served in the Invasion of Panama claims to have earned the Silver Star. It turns out that he did deserve it, but had never been awarded it because none of his team members would back up his story.
- In Dad's Army, Captain Mainwaring sometimes goes on about his service in the Great War, although he actually served in 1919 after the war had ended. It's especially ironic as he leads a platoon full of genuine veterans, including a Military Medal recipient.
- Inverted by Pops, in Time Gentlemen Please, who "didn't fight in World War II... admittedly".
- The beginning of the very first episode of Cheers has a kid trying to using a fake military ID to buy beer. A kid who's 12 at most:
Sam: Ah! Military ID! "Sgt. Walter Keller. Born 1944" That makes you about 38. You must have fought in 'Nam!Kid: Oh yeah.Sam: What was it like?Kid: Gross.Sam: Yeah, that's what they say. "War is gross". [gives back the ID] I'm sorry soldier.Kid: [beat] This is the thanks we get.
- An episode of House (the episode after House has gone back to working at Princeton Plainsboro, after recovering from going insane and then realizing that only diagnostics gives him the constant thrill he needs to keep the pain down, now that Vicodin is no longer an option) features a very cranky man with one arm, living in the apartment below Wilson's. Allegedly he served in Vietnam, which is where he lost the arm. Subverted in that he actually did serve - but as part of the peacekeeping force enforcing the Paris Peace Accords after the war ended. And not in the U.S. Army; he's actually a Canadian citizen who lost the arm while trying to save a kid from a landmine in a country near Vietnam. He's irritable for much the same reasons House is: he's in constant pain, due to phantom limb pain; House fixes this and the guy breaks down crying with relief because for the first time in over thirty years, he isn't in agony. It's never made clear whether he stopped claiming he was in Nam - it's implied, when he's telling House what really happened to his arm, that he just finds it easier to let people think it was Nam rather than deal with the questions that the truth would spur.
- Richie in Bottom frequently tries to pass himself off as a war veteran, but is inevitably undone by his own stupidity and Eddie.
- In "Apocalypse", he claims to have "Hurt my leg in the Falklands Conflict".
Man: Did he?
Eddie: Oh yeah, he tripped over the coffee table trying to switch channels.
- In "Parade", his attempt to cop off with a barmaid by using his Falklands story is ruined by Eddie ("This is all a load of bollocks") and an I Am One of Those, Too encounter with a real disabled Falklands veteran ("I don't believe a word of this. In fact I don't believe it so much I'm gonna smash your face in!")
- In the second Bottom Live stage show, he claims in a letter to the Queen to be an "Old soldier who during the war fought a desperate rearguard action in Burma."
Eddie: Ah, yes by 'war' I assume you mean Operation Desert Storm, by 'Burma', the Star of Burma kebab and peep show on the Uxbridge road in which you spent the entire conflict, and by 'desperate rearguard action' I take it you are referring to the time you accidentally went into the same cubicle as Mad Quentin Trousers-Down Pervy O'Blimey.
Richie: I was doing my bit Eddie. I was doing my bit.
- In "Apocalypse", he claims to have "Hurt my leg in the Falklands Conflict".
- Captain Peacock of Are You Being Served? claims to have fought Rommel in World War II and (of course) to have been a captain (in the Army, of course); however, he later admits he served in the Royal Army Service Corps—the logistics department.
- And one episode implies that his actual rank might have been Corporal rather than Captain, but this never confirmed.
- In Boardwalk Empire, Al Capone claims to be a veteran of World War I, and says he served in the Lost Battalion. A real veteran eventually figures him out and calls him on it. Capone's claims are Truth in Television.
- In Sons of Anarchy, Moses Cartwright is the chief enforcer for crime lord August Marks, and claims to be both a veteran of the US Army and Blackwater. This is technically true, but he was never actually deployed as a soldier, and had a desk job at Blackwater, which he compensates for by constantly spouting about loyalty and what makes a "good soldier." He's only dangerous when he's got a crew of thugs backing him up, and he eventually gets killed by Jax in a one-on-one fight.
- In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie figures out that he can get free lap dances if he claims to be a crippled war veteran after breaking his legs in a previous episode. He adopts a costume straight out of Born on the Fourth of July. Frank steals his idea and one-ups him by pretending to be quadriplegic. Ultimately the ruse is pointless, since Frank showers the strippers with money to get even more attention.
- Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers, of all people, was apparently in Korea: when he threatens a guest with "I've killed men!" his wife adds "He was in the Catering Corps. He poisoned them." He also claims to have shrapnel embedded in his thigh that gives him problems, although the pain flares up at surprisingly convenient moments.
- Darva Conger, winner of the notorious reality show ''Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?", claimed to be a Gulf War veteran. But after the show ended, it turned out that she spent the entire conflict stationed at Hill Air Force Base and never saw action. She tried to justify her lie by saying "I was on active duty in the Air Force at the time of the Gulf War; anyone on active duty at the time of that war is considered a Gulf War veteran." Veterans who've seen active combat typically refer to such service members as "in the rear with the gear."
- An episode of 8 Simple Rules had one of these. Rory was hanging out with a friend while on vacation, and his parents wanted to meet the friend to make sure he wasn't causing trouble. They're very surprised when the friend turns out to be a 70+ year old vet... and surprised again when a police brings both Rory and the old man back, then berates the man for telling "that war vet story" again.
- Foggy from Last of the Summer Wine, although whether his supposed war stories were just exaggerated or pure invention varied over the course of the show.
- In an episode of The Glades Jim discovers that a popular city councilor is one of these. A few years back he was trying to get a loan from a bank and mentioning that he used to be a soldier made the loan officer much more sympathetic. Pretending to be a war vet made it easier for him to run his business and then it jump started his political career. Unfortunately for him the Victim of the Week was a real former Navy SEAL and quickly spotted the fraud.
- One episode has JD tell his interns and Dr. Cox that a homeless patient was a veteran to get them to take better care of him.
- Parodied in another episode where JD starts wearing a lab coat despite not having "earned" it in Cox's eyes, who compares it to wearing a bronze star without having served in the military. The Janitor overhears, claims that he served, and that if he sees JD wearing such a star there will be trouble. JD counters by asking which branch the Janitor served in, and he can only lamely answer "The...janitor branch", making him this trope.
- George from Mr. Belvedere was stationed in Korea during peacetime, but told Korean War stories to Wesley because he thought his real Army years weren't exciting enough. When Wesley bragged about him at school, a classmate pointed out that George was too young to have fought in Korea.
- Copper: In "Home, Sweet Home", Corky feels sympathy towards a man whose son has gone missing when he learns he is a fellow veteran of the Union army. However, in "Aileen Aroon" he learns that the man was lying and beats the crap out of him.
- NCIS: New Orleans: The Victim of the Week in "Stolen Valor" is a former SEAL who hunts military imposters. His killer was someone rejected three times for military service who later joined a militia and then started turning up at veteran events claiming to be a decorated marine.
- Midsomer Murders had a man involved in a complicated defrauding scheme pose as a major to attract investors. While he was in the army, he was a sergeant- and at a desk job, at that.
- The Twilight Zone: "The Encounter." Neville Brand, a real veteran, portrayed a character of this type.
- In the Soviet mini-series The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed, the villainous thief Fox pretends to be a WWII veteran using a stolen uniform and medal, and, since the serial is set in chaotic post-WWII Moscow, no one calls him on it. Protagonist Sharapov, an actual decorated WWII veteran, is disgusted with him for this and tears his stolen medal off of him when they apprehend him.
- In Elementary season four episode "Ready or Not" Holmes and Watson look into a missing doctor named Vincent, who they determine was a survivalist renting space in a doomsday bunker, run by a former Marine named Ronnie Wright. When they visit the bunker, Holmes determines that the bunker is an ill prepared fraud, and finds a bloodstain belonging to Vincent. Ronnie Wright admits to disposing of the body, but claims he couldn't have killed him, because a bad rotator cuff prevents him from swinging a weapon overhead. He admits that he was injured while on his high school swim team, and that he was unable to enlist in the marines.
- The Punisher: O'Connor is an alleged Vietnam War vet who constantly shows off his Silver Star he says he won in combat. He uses this background to support his Angry White Man Right-Wing Militia Fanatic spiels about how society is going to the pits. It's ultimately revealed that he only briefly served, long after the Vietnam War had ended, and never earned a Silver Star.
- In a Cold Case episode about the murder of a former POW, Lt. Stillman's contempt for a suspect who's been lying through his teeth and claiming that he was a POW who saw much combat (in truth, the guy wimped out before even going to Vietnam and received a medical discharge) is even greater than that for the actual killer.
"You tell people you're a racecar driver, a brain surgeon. Not a POW."
- An episode of Homicide: Life on the Street had the detectives talking about a case where two guys ended up killing each other in a Bar Brawl over a fight about their respective times in the military. Turns out, neither man had ever served.
- In an episode of The Rebel, Johnny runs into a man from his own past who was a guard at the prison camp Johnny escaped from and claims to have been wounded in combat, with four scars on his chest to prove it. Johnny eventually reveals to the man's brothers that after Johnny escaped from the camp, the man got reassigned to a frontline unit as punishment and immediately deserted and hid in a hay loft, where he was stabbed in chest by a farmer with a pitchfork (which is why the "bayonet" wounds are all in a straight line), then taken to a Confederate field hospital, where he met Johnny again.
- The Code has an episode focusing on a Marine who exposes civilians posing as military veterans in public on video. It becomes complicated when one such phony Marine is beaten by a real one and dies of his injuries.
- From the Tim Wilson song Brother in Law:
He tries to blame it all on Vietnam.
But he wasn't there, he was fifteen in '74
- MAD magazine's parody of The Sound of Music reveals "Captain Von Tripe" as this. Early on, "Mitzia" asks the "Mother Obsess" how Von Tripe became a Navy captain of landlocked Austria, only for the Mother Obsess to admit that she has also wondered that. Von Tripe eventually admits to Mitzia that he's not really a Captain—he just enjoys wearing sailor suits.
- When Jack Swagger's father (actually played by James "Jimmy" Golden) briefly managed him, Jack ordered the audience to show his father respect because he was a Korean War veteran, despite the fact that Golden was born around the time that war started.
- Older Than Steam: Il Capitano from the Commedia dell'Arte plays is a braggart who tells wild tales of combat glory but runs from danger at a moment's notice.
- In Table Number Seven, the second one-act play from Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables, the character of Major Pollock claims to have served in the Army in North Africa, but was in fact in the Service Corps and spent the war at a supply depot in the Orkney Islands (north of the Scottish mainland), never rising above the rank of lieutenant. (Although some of the specifics were changed for the 1958 film adaptation featuring an Oscar-winning David Niven as Pollock, the overall story was kept intact.)
- Coach Oleander in Psychonauts was never involved in a war, despite his mindscape; a mental vault reveals that he was actually rejected when he tried to join the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and even the cooking staff wouldn't take him. Though he is still a government agent as a Psychonaut.
- The heavy weapons dealer, Phil Cassidy, from the Grand Theft Auto series wears military-style clothes, and claims to have lost his left arm when he was stationed in Nicaragua. GTA Vice City reveals that he never was in the army, who turned him down numerous times because of his bad temper and tendency towards alcoholism, and that he lost his arm due to an accident with a homemade bomb.
- Played with by the Soldier in Team Fortress 2. On the one hand, contrary to his claims, he has never served a day in any regular army, and all those medals on his chest were actually self-awarded; on the other, he did (if he must say so himself) earn the aforementioned medals by flying himself out to war zones and fighting on his own initiative, and it is hard to argue with his prowess.
- Played with in Deadly Premonition with General Lysander. York calls him out on the fact that he's wearing a sergeant's uniform. It turns out he really was promoted to General in Vietnam, but kept his old uniform out of guilt.
- Major Krum of the Wallace & Gromit games may be one, seeing as he can't remember whether he was in the artillery or the RAF. (Maybe he started out in the Royal Artillery, then got transferred to the RAF Regiment?) Then again, maybe he's just senile.
- Cloud in Final Fantasy VII. He insists he used to be a high-ranking member of SOLDIER and demands appropriate respect and admiration from the other characters for this, and he has the poise and posturing down (not to mention the fighting talent). But as more and more of his past is revealed it becomes apparent that it's all an elaborate lie which he has begun to believe himself due to a combination of magic, psychological trauma, half-remembered war stories from his friend, and severe brain damage. Finding out the truth leads to him having a total Heroic BSoD until he is able to accept his real past.
- In fairness it turns out he actually was in the army... as a faceless grunt.
- A suspect in the L.A. Noire DLC case "The Naked City" claims to have been with Sixth Marines at Okinawa, but struggles to answer which company he served in and what engagements he actually took part in. Cole Phelps, who actually was a first lieutenant in the 6th Marine Regiment, is not amused.
Earle: Don't you love it when they pull the "war hero" excuse? ...Actually, maybe you don't.
Phelps: (seething) That idiot never stepped foot in Okinawa.
- During "The Studio Secretary Murder" case, another suspect claims to have experienced the horrors of war firsthand in order to make himself sound more heroic, when in fact he was dishonorably discharged during training for physically assaulting a woman.
- Subverted in Bioshock Infinite: According to a soldier from the Battle of Wounded Knee, Zachary Comstock never fought in the war and the accomplishments he takes credit for aren't his. He actually did fight in the war when he was still known as Booker DeWitt. However, he is lying about the extent of his wartime accomplishments.
- Principal Longfellow from Better Days, while courting Sheila Black, claimed to be a Vietnam veteran who served with Sheila's husband Jim, who died there. In fact, he only briefly served in a supply unit in Okinawa, and had never even met Jim. When his lie is exposed, he attempts to rape her. Later it turns out Jim wasn't in Vietnam either, for different reasons.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: No one said wars can't be waged against home furnishings.
- Jace and Eli from Deagle Nation qualify as this, particularly the former (since he calls himself a "Future Former US Marine").
- A repeated theme with Felix from Chapo Trap House is his obsession with stolen valor.
- The interview with @PissPigGranddad begins with a skit imitating the many YouTube videos of fake soldiers getting called out on it, with Felix accusing Rashid of being a fake serviceman on the grounds that the YPG isn't a real army.
- Felix's character in the Call of Cthulhu campaigns is a fake serviceman with an extremely contradictory supposed history of service, and a high Fast Talk stat to prove it. Even after Felix gets bored with his character's gimmick and decides to turn him inexplicably into a "white spoken word jazz musician", he gets through security by "stealing more valor than he has ever stolen before" and covering every inch of his uniform in nonsensical medals. He also flexes his achievements to successfully seduce the President's wife, Ivana, claiming "I bet you've never been with a man whose brain has been made as good as mine by the war".
- In the election live show, Felix appeared as "Admiral Felix Biederman" who claimed to be an Admiral, a US Army Marine, and to have "stolen valor in over seven countries" and that he was also a cancer survivor.
- Brought up in the Unraveled dealing with Bowser's military hierarchy, as one of Brian David Gilbert's trademark rambles:
Brian: Next up are the Koopalings, they're sort of like the SEAL Team 6 of Bowser's army - Iggy, Larry, Lemmy, Roy, Wendy O., Ludwig Von, uh, notice that I did not include Morton Koopa Jr, because despite what he has written in his memoirs, he's never actually been active duty, and he's a valour-stealing bastard.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode, Homer claims to be a Vietnam vet in order to get free admittance to the State Fair.
- Subverted by Grampa — when he tells Bart about his experiences in World War One, Barts calls him out on it, pointing out that he couldn't possibly be that old. Grandpa corrects him, cutting to a flashback of a five-year-old Abe in an over-sized uniform.
- Grampa tells a lot of stories about WWII — like the time he posed as a burlesque singer in Munich and accidentally drew Hitler's eye — but one episode shows that one of his ramblings, that he was the leader of a platoon which included the fathers of several Springfield regulars as well as Mr. Burns himself, is in fact 100% true.
- Principal Seymour Skinner is somewhat honest about his Vietnam experiences and somewhat not. It's often hard to tell in any case because of the series' Negative Continuity. He claims to be an ex-Green Beret and has the fighting skills to back it up (although what he employs are fairly standard self-defense techniques that he could have learned anywhere), and he also claims to have been a POW - and given the genuinely bitter, haunted way he relates this experience, it's hard to imagine that he's lying. However, Skinner did lie on one point: he claimed to be a gung-ho platoon commander, when in fact he was just a common soldier. In fact, he went so far as to assume the identity of the original Sergeant Skinner (his real name was "Armin Tamzarian"), although this was primarily out of pity for (the real) Skinner's mother after her son was (supposedly) killed. Eventually, the citizens of Springfield decide to just drop the whole matter, and Armin Tamzarian returns to being "Seymour Skinner."
- Andy Anderson of Life with Louie defines this trope — he has over hundred of stories about his heroic acts during World War Two. When Louie actually writes them all down for a school project, other kids quickly points out how some of them are impossible, require him to be in two different countries at the same time, or be much older than he really is (he even had a story happening during the war in Spain, for heaven's sake!). In fact, all of them are true, but have been done by other veterans and Andy appropriated them, because he was ashamed of his own act of heroism.
- Cotton Hill of King of the Hill is eventually called on the fact that his stories place him in the European and Pacific theaters at the same time. It turns out that the European part was false (and it's suggested that this was simply him misremembering events rather than an attempt at stolen valor), but the Pacific part is true — it's kind of hard to argue with a man who doesn't have shins anymore, and the Army doesn't hand out those ribbons and medals to soldiers just for asking nicely. Then there's his illegitimate son conceived with a Japanese nurse he held a short affair with.
- Phil from Hey Arnold! told a story wherein he gave Adolf Hitler himself a wedgie. He is called out for this by Arnold (although Phil readily admits the Hitler part was just a joke) and proceeds to tell the story of how he incapacitated a troop of German soldiers by giving them spoiled Spam. There really is a statue of him in Washington D.C., crediting him with single-handedly winning the Battle of the Bulge.
- Quasi-inverted on Rugrats, where Grandpa Lou talks about how "that old mattress saved my life in World War II"... by tripping him and breaking his leg, allowing him to be honorably discharged for medical reasons a day before he was supposed to go onto the front lines.
- Family Guy plays this for laughs - when Peter winds up knocking out the town's cable, he shifts the blame onto Meg to get the crowd to ease off... they don't. He then claims that she'd lost a limb in Vietnam, which the crowd buys hook, line, and sinker before dispersing.
- In "Peternormal Activity", Peter, Quagmire, Joe and Cleveland punch a hook handed man named Albert to death at the abandoned insane asylum. Before Albert dies, he tells them that he got the hook after losing his hand while saving 6 men in Korea. Later, they see a newspaper headline that says that Albert has been reported missing and that Albert was really the Grand Giant of the local Ku Klux Klan and he stole war medals.
- South Park has the boys ask Jimbo and Ned about their experiences in Vietnam for a school project. Jimbo goes on to spin a ridiculous yarn about the two of them wiping out the entire Viet Cong army by themselves with Ned's loss of an arm as their own casualty. Also, they claim that their base camp was basically a funfair with rollercoasters and log flumes. Turns out that part's actually true, as they meet up with another Vietnam veteran who claimed that his own duty station in Tet didn't have as many fancy rides as Jimbo and Ned's one in Da Nang. The boys fake an encounter with The Mexican Staring Frog Of Southern Sri Lanka to get their own back. The truth is that Jimbo and Ned were in Vietnam, but Jimbo gave the kids a literal Theme Park Version because he didn't find his war stories appropriate.
- Fugget About It: When Cheech realizes that his Witness Protection alias is 100 years old, he decides to pretend to be a World War Two veteran in order to get free beer. Real World War Two veterans eventually realize the truth and beat him up.