Is This Man On Your Flight? He May Not Be Who You Think He Is

Have you seen this man during your travels? According to some people who served in the armed forces, he may be an impostor posing as a member of the United States Marine Corps — hoping you will give him your assigned seat in the premium class cabin. Photograph by DeAngelo Williams. Click on the photograph to access its original source.

Before you read this article, please note that at the bottom of the Guardian of Valor article mentioned in the next paragraph, the author of that article stated that a woman who claims to be the daughter of the man reached out to the organization, informed them that her father was in fact a Marine, and that she was sending documents to prove it; and the article will supposedly be updated as soon as that paperwork is received and verified. Neither I nor Internet Brands — the company which owns FlyerTalk — endorse or deny the allegations or accusations in any way whatsoever.
“I would like to make a serious suggestion: Post the fake Marine’s picture on the FT home page, along with a request: if this guy is on your flight, give him your 1st class seat, then send his boarding pass to” is what FlyerTalk member RatherBeOnATrain posted here pertaining to a professional football player who gave up his seat in the first class cabin aboard an airplane to a person who some claim is an impostor posing as a member of the United States Marine Corps.
Well, RatherBeOnATrain — your request came to fruition and became a reality…
…at least, the part about the picture appearing on the front “page” of FlyerTalk, anyway.
DeAngelo Williams — a running back for the Carolina Panthers team of the National Football League — “tweeted” a photograph while exclaiming “I always give up my seat to military if my seat is better! I truly appreciate our troops” while aboard an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines prior to a recent flight.
The problem is that the man dressed in full military garb may not be a real Marine, explained FlyerTalk member relangford: “From the photo, it sppears that the person is not a Marine, at least not one who has received such medals. It’s the wrong uniform for travel (wearing the actual full-sized medals); the order of medals isn’t right; he is wearing his cover indoors; and he would not be carrying his gloves with that uniform. It seems suspicious. I would assume DL has complete information on the traveller. Wonder if he used an active duty ID to get through TSA checkpoints? I really hope this isn’t a case of ‘stolen valor’. The Federal courts have ruled that stolen valor only applies to situations in which something of value was received due to the deception; would an flight upgrade from a fellow passenger fall into that category?”
Perhaps no one should rush to judgment and jump to conclusions about the subject of this controversy, opined FlyerTalk member arlflyer: “I’ve seen coverage of this story all over the web, and it’s been pretty amazing how quickly active duty or recently retired folks are willing to ‘swift boat’ this guy. He looks like he’s about a hundred years old, who knows what he’s been through in his life. Could he really not be some crusty old vet from decades ago who maybe has gone downhill a ways Maybe he’s lost a couple screws and embellished things with some picked-up medals but I don’t necessary see that everyone should be rushing to hang him for treason. Here in DC you can see lots of vets ‘wearing the uniform incorrectly’ – most of them are homeless and/or mentally ill. No one rushes to claim that they aren’t vets.”
That is not exactly a flattering commentary for the man in question — but what if arlflyer is correct?
I know one thing is for certain: I personally would not purchase a military-style uniform — let alone go out of my way to procure one — and then wear it every time I fly as a passenger simply to garner upgrades, visit airport lounges for military personnel, and any other special treatment; but then again, I would not do what this guy supposedly did either, as neither supposed action makes any logical sense to me. Whenever I travel, I like to dress as comfortably as possible, and — please forgive me if you are a Marine reading this article — that uniform does not look comfortable to me at all.
Although the unidentified man allegedly might possibly be engaged in a bit of passive yet intentional deception by purposely imitating a member of the United States Marine Corps — hoping to take advantage of the generosity of fellow passengers who would give up their seats in the premium class cabin to thank those who served their country — FlyerTalk member FWAAA is equally critical of DeAngelo Williams: “I’ve never been impressed with people who advertise their own good deeds, and that goes for celebrities like Mr Williams or random Flyertalkers. Much better to simply do good deeds and not seek attention or notoriety for them. Every few months, someone will post about how impressive they are because they gave away their upgrade to a soldier as if they’re the first person to ever do something nice for a member of our armed services. Patting oneself on the back is never attractive.”
I am not about to get involved in the debate about whether or not passengers should give up their seats for those who serve in the armed forces, as that is one of the most hotly debated topics on FlyerTalk — causing discussions such as this one to be locked from further posting.
Perusing the comments posted by readers of The Gate in response to an article I wrote back on March 1, 2013 where I asked “Should Military Personnel Airline Passengers Receive Special Treatment?” illustrates just how controversial is this issue. It is a debate which may never be resolved…
…but if you are the type of person who enjoys giving a seat to a member of the military as a token of your appreciation and as a generous gesture, you may want to carefully consider ensuring that the person you choose is indeed actually a member of the military — because if he or she is not, sitting in that seat in the economy class cabin may suddenly feel just a little bit more uncomfortable for you…
  1. I’m not a big fan of American allowing military personnel in full uniform to board early, and then letting a sweatshirt that says “Navy” or a showing a military ID somehow count as “in full uniform”, which I’ve observed happening on multiple occasions. Tells me that when they board “first class only”, I might as well board if I have a first class boarding pass for any past of future flight, or simply write the words “first class” on my economy boarding pass.

  2. As a former Marine, I will leave it at saying that the dress blue uniform is not comfortable at all and is not something I would want to wear on a flight.

  3. There are some major discrepancies in that Marine’s uniform that bother me besides being a very creepy photo. First off, the wearing of his hat indoors. Next, a Marine in full dress blue uniform calls far too much attention to himself when civilian clothing would be a better choice. During my 20 plus years in the Air Force, I can only recall a few times where it was necessary for me to wear my uniform, blue pants and light blue shirt, mandatory wings, no ribbons – most likely without the tie and with my authorized leather flight jacket. My flight cap would have been in my hand baggage while indoors. Anyone who’s been in the military hates wearing a hat, helmets and other headgear and would be very happy NOT to have on. In this day and age, one would think that military members would want to travel a bit more under the radar when traveling aboard commercial aircraft.
    The last question that I would ask is if he used his CAC (military ID) card to check in with rather than a drivers license, passport etc. On the subject of active duty, retired or former military members “swiftboating” this Marine, it seems that there have been some fakers out there. It behooves my mind as to why anyone would want to impersonate a military member. If I had been a situation where someone offered to swap their first class seat because I was in the military, first would thank them for the offer but decline the offer. It would make me rather uncomfortable being displayed as a “hero” for which I am not.

  4. The sight would have plucked my old sailor’s magic twanger, Froggie….
    Traveling in full dress? No.
    “Covered” in board? No.
    Precedence of decorations displayed? No
    A pretty glaring fake, and obviously by one who never served in the USMC recently or long ago.

  5. Nobody forced the football player to give up his seat. If the man in the photo is really a former marine and his story checks out, will the detractors apologize? If he’s just a man who likes to play dress up when he travels or to pass the time and make life interesting or relive his youth and didn’t ask for anything who is anyone else to say anything? Live and let live and don’t be quick to judge.

  6. Assuming this man neither demanded nor asked about the first class seat, I don’t see any reason it is an issue. Some athlete chose to give up his seat to somebody else to be able to brag to people about what a great guy he is. For all we know, this was simply a man in fancy dress. (While I doubt that people actually dress in faux-military attire on the off-chance that they get an upgrade, if it happened anywhere in the world, it would be the US.)
    And just out of curiosity, how many of you who would give up your first and business class seats would do the same on a 12 hour+ flight?

  7. Me thinks he might have a full dress Navy uniform, and a full dress Air Force uniform and, etc., etc.

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