A couple of weeks ago, a young soldier wrote us tell about a former member of her unit who had appeared in the news by the name of Jannah Ebner who had spun a yarn a few years ago on her local public radio station in Milwaukee. WUWM had published Ebner’s story about how she’d been injured in an IED attack in Iraq in 2004 but she felt fortunate because she’d lost members of her unit, blah, blah, blah. The young lady who contacted us said Ebner was a PAC clerk who never went out on convoys, that Ebner had never left the wire, that on the day she was injured, there had been no attack, that no one had been killed that day.
So, I contacted Erin Toner the author of the article. Erin told me that a dozen or so members of the unit, the 619th Transportation Company, had contacted her about the phony tales of Jannah Ebner. The radio station confronted Ebner with the charges of her fellow soldiers and she admitted to her lies. Toner and her editor decided to pull the article, unfortunately, they pulled it before I had a chance to screen copy it, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
But, Erin did an interview with me about the stolen valor thieves we encounter, because she was pretty upset that she’d been had and it published today.
One website that investigates questionable military stories is called, “This Ain’t Hell, But You Can See it From Here.” Administrator John Lilyea says he gets tips from friends and family of service members, and from troops deployed all over the world.
“They run across these stories in their hometown newspapers or hear them on the radio or see them on television and they email us. We get about 10 tips a week from people, sometimes too many for us to handle,” Lilyea says.
Lilyea says he requests military records from the government using the Freedom of Information Act and in nearly all cases he investigates, the stories were fabricated. Lilyea spent 20 years in the Army and worries the liars present a poor image of the military.
“Because eventually everybody gets caught, if not by our blog then by the media somewhere. And it just makes us all look like liars. We can’t go in a bar and sit with our friends and tell our stories without somebody thinking that we’re lying because they’re so prolific,” Lilyea says.
You can hear parts of our interview in this 5 minute radio show segment;