Being part of the military has its downsides.
Multiple postings, long working hours, tough physical work, little control over your life, difficult living conditions…and of course the potential to get yourself blown up and killed.
But we in the forces live with these. Not because we are special heroes, but because military service life has its benefits too. Fairly decent pay. Fabulous opportunities for adventure. Brilliant like minded people around you. So things sort of balance out.
One of the benefits is how people in the UK have started to think about the military more, and the regard for what we actually do has gone up so much recently. Help4Heroes, SupportOurTroops, Adoptasquaddie all allow people to show their support for what we do. and that is just the loveliest thing. To be appreciated for what you ARE, not just what you do, is just bloody wonderful.
But with all this support and appreciation there are some who want to cash in on it. Not actual servicemen who might want to write or talk about their lives after they have left the forces, but some people (who aren’t even in the forces) who want to literally cash in on the military, and the support that it gets.
These people are nicknamed Walts. Named after the character Walter Mitty – who lived a fictional life inside his head, daydreaming and then playing out these dreams; being something and someone that he wasn’t.
Yes. There are people who want to pretend to either be in the forces, or have been in the forces, for what ever reason they have…and get the kudos of being a serviceman, or ex-serviceman, without actually having to have put up with those downsides (and the many more!) listed above.
These people are the sad, the lonely, the needy. They are the ones who want to live bigger, better, braver lives, but aren’t up to it. They often prowl the forums of the Internet, lurking in the very places that those amazing people who support military personnel go to offering help, support, assistance and friendship, and then they leech of it.
The Walt will make up some spurious lies about a military career. They will be a Para, or a Marine, or even Special Forces. They will say they have been on a tour or two; Iraq and Afghan. They will trawl eBay and find an old beret or military surplus jacket and have a picture – but only one or two pictures will be available if the befriended asks for them.
The Walt will seek firstly contact, then friendship and then they will go in for the ‘kill’. They will ask for something. Mostly, and the most common form of Walting is just for the attention and adulation. But the next worse is when the Walts look for sex. Worse is looking for ‘love’ which then turns out to just be sex but the very worst is the Walt who looks for a gain. A financial gain somehow. The classic is ‘they’ve fucked up my pay and I need a bit of help seeing me through to the end of the month’…or ‘I can’t access my bank account here…’
And of course they get what they want, and then run.
Run on to the next victim.
This really, really, pisses me off. Really. Military people put up with a lot, but the last thing they should have to put up with is people stealing their good name and using it to prey on the unsuspecting who only want to help or meet real military personnel.
Speaking of that…and returning to the subject of sex. It’s a fact that there are people who like men (and women) in uniform. Hey! Life’s rich pageant! I could tell stories that…but I won’t…but the reason for this blog post today is that I have been affected by Walting this week.
Someone, a Walt, used my picture on a dating site. I received a Direct Message on twitter from someone who followed me asking if I was using a dating site. I wasn’t. I am not. The messenger went on to say that someone had contacted her on a dating site ‘flirting’ with her, using a picture that she recognised. My old Twitter picture. The dead-ally hardcore one of me, taken by a military photographer in Afghanistan, just before I was going out on a patrol. Tooled up. Helmet, body armour, combats, rifle.
Now, I posted on Twitter about this and got the expected response – outrage and anger – at the Walt, but I also got something I didn’t expect. Several saying that they thought it must be a compliment.
But I don’t see it as that. I see it as some sad wannabe who is pretending to be something he isn’t in the hope of meeting people for sex. And then when he DOES meet the poor victims, what does he expect to happen? When someone who DOESN’T look like me (and he should think he is lucky that he doesn’t really) stands in front of a woman and says ‘here I am, oh, THAT picture? Well, yeah I know it’s not me, but we are here now and so…’
What could happen next? At best the woman would leave, at worst…the very worst could happen…and I will leave that to your imagination.
So a sad Walt pretending to be a member of the military isn’t an honour. It’s not a compliment. It’s just bloody infuriating. It’s stealing. It’s stealing everything that being in the military stands for. Its the theft of an idea and an ideal. And whilst most of the time Walts are harmless attention seekers trying to fill an empty hole in their lives, some are after much much more, and can cause much much more pain.
If you have been approached by someone saying they are military and asking for something, or have concerns about the military ‘bona fides’ of someone online, have a look at Walter Mitty Hunt or do a search on Facebook for Walter Mitty Hunt.