The sad, sad story of “Gunny Lauve”
It started last week, at The American Legion World Series, where George “Gunny Lauve” led the “Sportsmanship Pledge” to the Brooklawn, N.J., and Midland, Mich teams in the winners’ bracket. An article written in the Shelby Star talked about “Gunny”:
Marine Sergeant Major George “Gunny” Lauve’s sense of humor is sharp as ever.
But when it turns to the subject of his service in World War II and Korea, the 89-year-old Lauve turns more serious and doesn’t want to talk about his service or medals.
“I prefer not to do that because I was lucky,” Lauve said. “I came back. They didn’t.”
…He has been awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest medal for Marine and Navy personnel, and five Purple Hearts.
Lauve fought in the battles at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Wake Island and Saipan during World War II and at Chosen Reservoir in Korea. He was awarded Purple Hearts from each of those battles.
George has been a loyal and hardworking Legionnaire for going on 47 years. But, alas for all of us, he was never a Marine, doesn’t have the Navy Cross, and doesn’t have five purple hearts. He served in the Navy for a very short period, and is eligible for Membership, but the rest of his story was just that; a story.
Jonn Lilyea was the first to contact me. He and Doug Sterner and others had apparently been taking a look at “Gunny” for a while, and the article at the Shelby Times gave them the info they needed to know. Pretty hard to fake a Navy Cross, all of the recipients are listed online.
As soon as TAL became aware of the problem, we started taking action. We took down Gunny’s story from the website, removed his picture from Facebook, and started doing our research. In our defense, there didn’t seem anything amiss with the story to the author of our piece. She was there after all to cover baseball, and had no reason to doubt the story. When I let her know about the disparity, her response included numerous exclamation and question marks. Even after I started looking around I had some folks absolutely verifying the claims, and others absolutely telling me the whole thing was bunk. As I suspected at the time, the truth lay somewhat in the middle: he had served, just not with the valor he proclaimed.
As the investigation continued, I really became impressed with both the Department of Washington Adjutant (“Gunny” is from Washington) and the Post Adjutant and Commander where Gunny served on the executive board. Both tried to make the best of a particularly bad situation. As the Department Adjutant said to me in an email from last Thursday:
I’ve found nothing encouraging… to corroborate Gunny’s story. It doesn’t look good.
We welcome all honorably discharged wartime veterans into our ranks and allow each post to establish its own standards for verifying service. Since most Legionnaires are honorable men and women, it is not inherent in their nature to question others. Gunny certainly did talk the talk and no one in his post ever had any reason to question his service.
I didn’t know he had received the Navy Cross until it was announced by a National officer at the World Series last year. Like I said, very few of us are so cynical or suspicious that we challenge personal histories, unless they are absurd.
This is a sad situation. Gunny has served the Legion well over the past 47 years despite his not having served. At his current age, he may actually believe his own stories.
Gunny doesn’t return to Washington until Friday. Given the fact that several of us have tried very hard to verify his history and failed, it will be up to him to make his case. He is a nice gentleman; loved and respected in his community, so they may be reluctant to even pursue this with him.
For its part, the Post held an emergency meeting, and discovered what we had suspected, Gunny served honorably in the Navy for a short period at the end of WWII, but without the flourishes.
The leadership of Post 10 met with George Lauve this afternoon. As expected the meeting was extremely emotional and Lauve admitted to "embellishment" of his record. He was quite repentant and remorseful.
This post is not intended to further humiliate anyone, but since the story is out there, and The American Legion is involved, we felt it necessary to comment.
During the entire affair, I spoke repeatedly with Past National Commander Rehbein, who I often turn to when I look for some advice. Like me, he seemed to find one adjective which best summed up the story: Sad. At one point there was even squabbling between the Post Adjutant and employees of the post, who still believed in Gunny’s stories. They’ve subsequently made their peace, but the scars of that argument may be a while in healing. And that’s what we find with most of these Stolen Valor cases, there’s always victims who aren’t directly connected.
I haven’t talked to Gunny, nor is there a reason for me to do so. But, if I had to speculate, I can see how it might have happened. One bit of hyperbole here, another dash of flair there, and over 47 years the story changes from a short term of service in the Navy to 20+ years in the Marine Corps, with awards and decorations that were awarded only in the minds of the people telling and hearing the stories. Again, it is all so very sad.
A comment from “Average NCO” over at This Ain’t Hell seemed to sum it up perfectly for me:
The sad thing is that [the employees innocently and honorably defending George] are not unique. There was the daughter who wrote a book about her father based on his lies. There were the parents who organized lavish homecomings for their war-hero son who was pretending. There were church members who adored their Navy SEAL Pastor only to learn he had been borrowing his fake story from a Steven Segal movie. No matter what that appeals court said, Amy & Susan, along with the others, prove that Stolen Valor is not a victimless crime.
Is this a teachable moment? I’d like to think so, and sincerely hope that anyone who might be considering augmenting their record would understand it, and that reporters would also spend an extra minute or three to look into it. In today’s world, you just can’t get away with this stuff. Too many records are online; too much info is out there for those of us that spend the time to look for it.
Mere days after George’s story came to light, the “Mountain News” ran a story about an ex-navy SEAL named “Carl.” The almost 2,000 word article discussed Carl’s service in the black ops, pointing out how he now lived by an assumed name to protect himself. You can read the entire article at TAH, as it has been taken down at the original site, but as Jonn noted alluding to the movie Tropic Thunder:
Yeah, you need to read the whole article in order to get the “full retard” effect. The reporter must’ve been intending to pull our collective leg, because no one is so gullible that they’d believe some horseshit like this.
Apparently not; it seems he didn’t bother to do even a rudimentary background check.
And so, Gunny’s fate in The American Legion remains uncertain. It’s up to the post to decide that, and at Headquarters, we stay out of those fights. But it should serve as a cautionary tale to everyone to do as President Reagan once advised: trust, but verify.