An Army veteran spotted a panhandler in Tampa, Florida on Sunday and almost helped him until he discovered that the man begging for money was posing as a military veteran wearing a suspicious-looking uniform.
USA Today reports that although most civilians may be unaware of the different types of markings on a military uniform, Army veteran Garrett Goodwin, who served as a Army combat medic from 1994 to 2003, stated that he could immediately tell that the panhandler’s uniform was fake.
Goodwin confronted the man, but the panhandler shuffled away while apologizing. Goodwin didn’t give up. He followed the beggar for several blocks, requesting identification. When the panhandler failed to prove his identity, Goodwin demanded that he take off his “fake” uniform.
Ironically, the alleged faker chose an area close to MacDill Air Force Base to ask for money. With numerous veterans and active-duty military that congregate in the area, it’s surprising that the panhandler thought it a good idea to pull his scam at that particular intersection.
It was an ROTC badge attached to the man’s uniform that alerted Goodwin. He immediately questioned the man and caught the entire episode on a video that went viral after he posted it on his Facebook page.
“I’m about public safety and public service. And when it comes to the military, seeing people in uniform that, you know, we bled, sweat, cried and burned through – it disgusts me.”
Although most people praised Goodwin for his efforts to stop the posing panhandler, others were more sympathetic with the beggar and scolded Goodwin, calling him a bully and brute. Goodwin, however, made it clear that he was not a bully and if the man were truly a veteran, he would personally give him $1,000 and make sure he had a way to request assistance from the Veteran’s Administration.
“Some people have called me a bully on the internet, and I think he’s a bully wearing a uniform holding up a sign walking up to people’s cars in an intersection looking for money. I think he’s bullying people out of their money.”
This isn’t the first time that someone posed as a military veteran in hopes of financial gain. Last year, Army Sgt. Ryan Berk confronted a man who posed as a military veteran in order to get discounts at a Pennsylvania shoe store. When questioned, the man, who was pretending to be a staff sergeant, backpedaled and was unable to answer basic questions about the Army.
Although it’s not illegal for people to pretend they’re in the military, it becomes a federal crime if they wear certain military honorary ribbons and badges in an attempt to gain financial benefits. Known as the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, those found guilty can face substantial fines as well as prison time.
[Photo Courtesy of 10News/Tampa Bay]