If you've ever meet anyone in the Special Ops community, you'll know they're typically not cocky (unless they're Rangers) just extremely confidant. When you turn to them and say "I need you to do [insert tasking here]" they'll not only tell you what they need, but they'll tell you which team, from which branch is best suited to the job. There is no "cookie cutter" Special Ops unit, all specialize in specific missions. Despite the constant belief by many civilians that SEAL Team 6 (actually DEVGRU) are the be all end all, they couldn't do their mission without 160tg SOAR, and there are just as many missions you don't hear about that other units like CAG (formerly Delta) do. Moreover while they might give you the general out line of "Somebody killed some bad guys somewhere and rescued some hostages in the process" they will not talk about mission specifics. Or even say the words "classified" or "secret" They'll hint (strongly) that they wouldn't have any idea what you're talking about.
Now we have an extreme number of rats, cockroaches and other pests coming out of the wood work trying to claim they were SEALs or that they did secret missions. When you do a FIOA to get their DD-214, amazingly they were either privates or were never in the military in the first place. This typically tends to evoke the response "well it's classified". Uh-hugh. Well let's think about this for a second. You say you did something so classified that your existence in said uber classified unit, is itself classified, and you're telling people all about it. . . right. You don't mind if I call you a liar, and a fraud do you?
people want to hear about all the secret missions that people do. Hell I've been on missions you're not supposed to talk about. Know what? They're boring as hell. Take RECON Marines. Not actually Special Ops, though if you listen to the Marines those Pansy SEALs can go home and let RECON do the job. There's one major problem. While the RECON Marines are indeed a hard bunch. . . their missions are not direct action. Ever see Generation Kill? That's a true story of 1st RECON Bn during OIF I. Quick, how many major battles were they in? Not that many. that's because their job is to scout out the enemy for the Main Force to attack. Its kind of hard to do that kind of Reconnaissance in Lightning War, or Blitzkrieg (which has become our preferred methodology of warfare). Likewise when you're whole mission profile is not to be seen it tends to get rather boring watching and waiting for some form of actionable Intel, then doing a BDA after the fact. You're not even supposed to engage most of the time, because you packed light.
Ah but what about those Direct Action raids, and ops you hear about? True there are more of them for the Spec Ops community than you'd typically find in the usual Line units, but again they are not doing anything that the Line Units don't do to a lesser degree of expertise. The SEAL ammo budget for one live fire training mission may actually be the same as the ammo budget for a whole Light Infantry Bn for a fiscal year. When you're expending that much ammo, you tend to get one of two things 1). really good or 2). really dead. Indeed if you were to take say my old Bn 2-16 Infantry, and run it through SEAL CQB training, at the rate and intensity they do, you might well have a bunch of really high speed soldiers, true there would be a lot of guys that didn't cut the mustard but the main difference between Special Ops and Line units is all in their training.
So why are there so many fakers. I've outlined a lot of the reason the Mythos is so appealing if misunderstood. The missions tend to write themselves and the "don't quit" attitude is such that many people, tend to think that these men are somehow supermen. Most people who have never tested their bodies do not understand the limits of human endurance, and thus could not possibly understand that what Special Ops units do is not super-human, it is operating at the limits of human ability, which is sadly something one can not sustain for very long. Part of it plays into the victim mentality. "I did all this high speed stuff and now I'm Broke and Broken". But that's not what Operators would say at all. The core of it, really is hero worship. The people that do this can not imagine what its like to be an Operator, and they idolize them for what they do, so they figure they can make up a story and receive that idolization in return. Its a form of self gratification that sadly add more mess than the usual mastabatory kind.
I believe firmly that these fakers cause immeasurable harm. Form the Occupy San Diego "hero" to the homeless dude claiming to be a part of 12th Mountain Division, these fools feed into the worst negative stereotypes of Military Veterans. Even Jesse Ventura, who has become something of an icon for conspiracy nuts, in his search for the "truth" (for values of truth) has become an embarrassment to Veterans. His form od Stolen Valor is if anything worse because he knows better!!! He was a UDT. He should know that claiming to be a SEAL and seeing combat in Vietnam but never having done either particulars eats away at the real credibility of real SEALs. I think he sought the fame. He sought the recognition, and when the roids finally ate away at what was left of his brain, he wanted the legitimacy that comes from having been "used" for classified missions deep behind enemy lines. Only problem, that wasn't the UDT's mission. They were underwater (and land) EOD. Now that he's a conspiracy nut taking on everything from 9/11 to Chupicabra, he needs that stamp of "legitimacy" that the red rubber "classified" stamp gives him. Never mind that that's not how we mark such documents anymore.
If you ever meet a SEAL or Green Beret, or TAC-P or PJ etc, they will not just come out and say "oh I was a [insert super secret squirrel name]". Anonymity is key to these men. Believe it or not they are very humble. There are not more primadonas, or rouges, though there were once. The men that are a part of the community now are ardent professionals. They are the Quiet Professionals that Americans so desire to know are there. That there are so many fakes that seek to touch a part of this community should fill every patriot with the deepest sense of loathing for these fakes.