In the wake of SEAL Team 6 successfully shooting Osama Bin Laden in the face, Harrisburg, PA’s Patriot-News reached out to local veterans for human interest stories about their own service. One such veteran they approached was Rev. Jim Moats, a 59-year-old local pastor and former Navy SEAL. Only trouble, soon after the article was published, the internet turned on Moats, and it was discovered that he had never actually been a Navy SEAL, and had in fact stolen his SEAL stories from Steven Seagal. That’s right, he was… an impastor. The picture that ran with the original story is above on the left, the one that ran with the follow up on the right. Oh schadenfreude, why are you so delicious?
The Navy awards the gold Trident medal to those who have completed SEALs training and have earned the right to be called a SEAL. The same gold Trident can be bought at a military surplus store, and that’s where the Rev. Jim Moats of Newville got his.
Moats was never a Navy SEAL — even though that’s what he told The Patriot-News on Friday, and that’s what Moats has allowed his congregation at Christian Bible Fellowship Church in Newville to believe for five years.
Don Shipley, a retired SEAL who lives in Chesapeake, Va., said he is one of a few former SEALs who are entrusted by the Navy with maintaining the database containing the names of all SEALS. The database cannot be accessed by the public.
Moats was never a SEAL and never had set foot in Vietnam, Shipley said. The information can be verified through a Freedom of Information Act request from the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, he said.
Shipley called Moats on Saturday night to confront him about the issue.
“We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” Shipley said.
Shipley said Moats’ story about being re-assigned to kitchen duty and about being waterboarded were lifted from the Steven Seagal movie “Under Siege,” while his reference to being hit by SEAL instructors was vintage “GI Jane.”
Seriously, GI Jane? This might be the first time someone ever stole details of their life story from a Demi Moore movie. Though now that I think about it, speaking in tongues is kind of a ripoff of Ghost. Anyway, are you ready for some real irony/schadenfreude? Let’s go back to the original article, before Moats was outed:
Instructors hit SEALs and goaded them to quit. He was subjected to waterboarding, because the Navy knew that’s what the Vietnamese did to SEALs and air crew members who were captured.
SEALs were kept going for days with little sleep. The instructors would lie, promising sleep or a break, but when the time came it wouldn’t happen.
Moats grew accustomed to the physical part because he was in good shape. The mental barrages were more grueling.
“I had almost no discipline. I was as wild as they came. That was my nemesis,” Moats said. “They weren’t looking for a guy who brags to everyone he is a SEAL. They wanted somebody who was ready but had an inner confidence and didn’t have a braggadocio attitude.”
“When I rode into town on my Harley, they thought they’d never be able to tame me. I was a brash young upstart who lead with his fists, and sometimes, his heart. But after hours of rigorous training in and out of the bedroom, a beautiful blonde consultant helped me learn the value of discipline.”
In August 1971, Moats got into a fight in a club. He went from Navy elite to dishwashing as part of a mandated “attitude adjustment.”
Aw, did they make you peel potatoes too? “I remember when my gruff commanding officer called my into his office and told me to shut the door. ‘YOU’RE A LOOSE CANNON, MOATS! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH PAPERWORK I’M GOING TO HAVE TO DO BECAUSE OF YOUR CRAZY STUNTS!?’ he yelled at me. But they knew, I was the best. As I learned in SEAL training, you have to send a maniac to catch a maniac.”
Moats soon after rededicated his life to God. He could have gone back to the SEALs but decided to commit the rest of his Navy time to less-intense duty allowing him to focus on preparing for the ministry.
Moats said there wasn’t anything about being a SEAL that prevented him from pursuing his faith. He just felt he didn’t have “the inner discipline” to do both at the same time.
He got out of the Navy in 1974 and went to Bob Jones University in South Carolina. He became pastor of the Newville church five years ago.
What a douche. Adding to the irony, back in the update article, Moats’ sons are actually in the military.
Moats said his wife and his two sons, Jamie and Jonathan, knew that he was never a SEAL. Moats said one of his sons called him after seeing the published story to ask why he would tell the world he was a SEAL when he wasn’t.
Moats said his older son, Jamie, is an Army first lieutenant in Germany about to be deployed to Afghanistan. Jonathan is no longer in the Army.
Until Shipley told him, Moats said he was not aware of the Stolen Valor Act, a federal law that had made it a crime for someone to wear military medals he had not earned or to otherwise misrepresent service in the U.S. military. The law has been declared unconstitutional as a violation of freedom of speech.
Shipley said even if the law was binding, he would not favor prosecuting Moats. The pastor has been outed through the Internet in what Shipley said is a form of street justice.
“I don’t lump him in with the worst of the worst. He’s just despicable. Some of these guys are total criminals. I think just having his ass spanked is enough for him that he won’t do it again any longer. He needs highlighted,” Shipley said. [Original PennLive article, Update Article]
“He needs to have his ass spanked”? Forget Moats, get this Shipley guy a Hollywood consulting job. He sounds like a cross between Tommy Lee Jones and R. Lee Ermey.