Military and Police

The Betrayal and Loss of Honor: Stolen Valor

United States Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn has been accused of premeditated murder relating to events in Afghanistan in 2010. Golsteyn, a captain at the time of the incident, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 with 3rd Special Forces Group.

Golsteyn earned a Silver Star, which was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal for valor. That medal and his Special Forces tab were stripped from him due to a closed 2014 investigation. The Army reopened an investigation in 2016, and that is where this story begins.

Lead Investigator a Fraud, Charged with Acts of Stolen Valor

The lead Criminal Investigations Division (CID) investigator in Golsteyn’s case is facing charges for lying about his military service. “Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Delacruz, a CID investigator at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was charged with the unauthorized wear of a Purple Heart, Air Assault Badge, Pathfinder Badge, and Combat Action Badge,” according to Stars and Stripes. To an Army promotion board, Delacruz went so far as to submit a package “that stated he earned a Purple Heart when he did not.” This is known as “stolen valor.”

In an attempt to gain benefit and attention, stolen valor occurs when service members claim details about their military service that are not true. Delacruz has been suspended pending the outcome of his case. If true, his career will come to a very abrupt end.

Maj. Golsteyn’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, wrote a letter to the commander of Army Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, saying, “It has come to our attention, not from the prosecutors in this case, but through anonymous sources and later verified by documentation that Special Agent Delacruz has committed acts of ‘Stolen Valor’ and is currently being prosecuted for lying and wearing, of all things, a Purple Heart Medal among other awards and devices he did not earn.”

Stolen Valor

In the military culture, stolen valor is about as distasteful as it can get. Many times, it involves someone falsely claiming to be or have been in the military. These sorry souls are viewed as weak individuals, “Posers.” You see them sometimes wearing the uniform, almost always incorrectly, and claiming awards and deeds that are beyond belief. It is just sad.

As a disabled veteran and a former military investigator, when I see the actual veterans that exaggerate their records or falsely claim to have been in some “high speed, low drag” unit, to me that’s even worse. They should know the honor it is to be a veteran. They served, and it matters not in what capacity. They are part of the very few that dedicated at least part of their life to this country. When they claim awards they didn’t earn, they dishonor all of us who legitimately did. They betray the ethos that we as veterans hold so dear.

Often the claim will be they were Special Forces, Rangers, or former SEALs. It seemed like the more high-speed and storied the unit, the better. To me there must be some mental issue, maybe a lack of confidence, a need to be the center of attention, or maybe it is just a failed career that just never developed the way they had hoped. Now in their minds, they take on the mantel they never achieved, a mantel of those that were deserving. I have met a couple of these guys. It is a shame that a veteran, a real veteran who should be proud of what they did, feels the need to destroy not only their reputation but dishonor all of us that really can say “Been there, done that.” I just don’t get it.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Jon Harris

Jon Harris is a former Army NCO, Sergeant Morales Club member, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He is published in Army Trainer Magazine, authored regular columns in several newspapers, and is the author of the Cold War novel Breakpoint. His adventures as a security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq can be found on He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice and is currently completing his Juris Doctor degree.

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