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The Sad Walts

A lot of the websites which seem to be aimed at squaddies and former squaddies refer disparingly to “Walts”. I don't think I've seen a dictionary definition of Walt yet but it seems to me to be a term for some kind of military fantasist. Could Walt be short for Walter Mitty? The fantasist hero of a short story by American humourist James Thurber.

Years ago I came across an Australian-based website which specialised in exposing military frauds. I think it was called Australian and New Zealand Military Imposters. Australia seemed to have a lot of Australians claiming falsely to have served in Vietnam and Brit immigrants claiming to be former SAS. That got me thinking about a fellah who regularly appeared in the local media claiming to be a hardened combat veteran who served with a non-Canadian unit. Like the imposters in Australia this fellah claimed to have served in a special forces role. I'd heard he'd been a cook on a submarine. I questioned a fellow journalist who'd done a story about this guy about what evidence there was to back up the claim of special forces service. It seemed to come down to a military discharge certificate – the kind both an elite combat infantryman or a cook would be entitled to. There were also some photos of this character holding a rifle with what looked like some exotic flora in the background. Once again, it could have been taken before this guy went out on another highly dangerous mission or it could have been a cook taking a break from the pots and pans to be photographed with his personal weapon.
Some people would, and did, say “Where's the harm?” in this kind of charade. Well, here's the harm. This guy was  spouting a lot of bullshit, both to the Canadian public and the young Canadian soldiers heading off to Kandahar, about War. He was  filling folks' heads with nonsense, gleaned from cheap paperbacks and Commando Comics at time when Canada was making  a very serious military commitment which has so far cost the lives of more than 150 Canadians in Afghanistan. That shouldn't ought to be encouraged.

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