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by Abigail Van Buren

Dad Embellishes Truth of His Military Service

DEAR ABBY: My father is 87 and has stage 4 cancer. For years he has lied about being a hospital corpsman in the Navy during the Korean War. My parents live in a retirement community, and he talks about being in the war while wearing a Navy baseball cap. Dad was in the Naval Reserve (that we know of) but never saw combat.

Veterans' groups are always bringing him quilts, food, etc. My mom is horrified and doesn't know what to say when he goes on a rant about having been hit by shrapnel while pulling a fellow naval guy out of a burning building. He will pass away soon, and the veterans' groups will be giving Mom a flag he doesn't deserve. Mom doesn't know what to do. Should we just ignore the antics or say something? Please help. -- UNCERTAIN IN FLORIDA

DEAR UNCERTAIN: What your father has been doing is called "stolen valor" or "stolen honor," and it is seriously frowned upon by people who have actually earned it. It is a form of fraud. However, anyone who has served in the military and been honorably discharged is entitled to be given a flag when he or she is buried. It will be folded and presented to your mother.

As to the gifts he is receiving from the veterans' groups, suggest that because your father is now so close to the end, they be given to other vets who can use them.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Death | Etiquette & Ethics | Aging