A 73-year-old church deacon spent the last 50 years telling everyone – his congregation, friends, and even his own wife and kids – about his days as a Navy SEAL. He regaled them with stories about jumping from a plane six miles up, and diving another 370 feet to a sunken and disabled submarine.
Mike Fortner, a deacon at First Southern Baptist Church near San Diego, was quite the hero back in the day, and he’s darned proud of it. He showed everyone his leg injury suffered from a grenade detonation, and the spot on his shoulder where a bullet grazed him. And he talked about the time he killed a 14-year-old boy in Vietnam.
“I had no choice. I still see his face,” claims Fortner.
Great stuff. The only problem is, it’s all lies. Seems that Fortner was finally busted for lying about his experiences, thanks to an investigation launched by a local San Diego news station, and he was forced to publicly confess his big lie, and apologize.
The take down of Deacon Fortner begin when, at a meeting of “Homebuilders”, a parents’ workshop held at another San Diego area church, he was recorded while telling his tall tales of heroism and bravery. For more than 30 minutes, he discussed his treacherous life as a special warfare operator, telling detailed stories about his exploits. The video was then posted online, and subsequently a suspicious member of Fortner’s church sent the video to Don Shipley, an actual retired Navy SEAL.
Shipley, who runs a SEAL-styled training camp in Virginia, gets many inquiries about Navy SEAL posers from around the country. Fewer than 10,000 men have been a Navy SEAL, and Shipley can access a database which shows everyone who has been a SEAL.
Shipley told the ABC7 News I-Team, the news station conducting the investigation into Fortner’s claims, that Fortner was never a Navy SEAL, and that his position in his church concerned him.
“Every one of those insane stories he’s been telling are lies,” Shipley said. “This guy isn’t selling used cars to people, he’s a deacon in the church. He holds a superior position in that, and people turn to these guys for help.”
Records do show that Fortner served almost 10 years in the Navy as a radarman during the 1960s, but he was never a Navy SEAL.
When ABC7 News went to interview Fortner about these findings, here is how it went:
NOYES: “You’ve claimed for a long time that you’re a Navy SEAL and you’re not.”
FORTNER: “I am what they call top secret.”
REPORTER: “You’re top secret?”
Instinctively, Fortner continued his big lies, but when pressed, he finally admitted that he had been lying.
REPORTER: “Every Navy SEAL who underwent BUD/S training, that’s part of the public record. I’d be able to find that out. You did not attend BUD/S training, did you?”
FORTNER: “Alright. You’re right.”
Now Fortner was ready to come clean, thanks to the due diligence and persistence of ABC7 News.
FORTNER: “Maybe it’s good that it’s out.”
REPORTER: “Can you explain to me why…”
FORTNER: “I don’t know why.”
REPORTER: “Why tell that in the first place?”
FORTNER: “I don’t know.”
REPORTER: “Do your kids believe you’re a Navy SEAL?”
FORTNER: “Well, they won’t after today.”
Fortner confessed to his congregation at the next church service.
“I’m doing it because God began to talk to me, and please forgive me. I’m sorry I did it,” Fortner told his congregation.
But damage has been done. For over 50 years, this man built a false persona and earned respect for doing things that he never did. Furthermore, it’s highly disrespectful to the 10,000 men who have actually served as Navy SEALS.
Shipley is highly disgusted with Fortner’s lies, and doesn’t believe he is sorry. “Fortner is not sorry he told those lies, he’s sorry he got caught. There’s not a sympathetic bone in my body for him and I’ll take down anyone else that claims that Navy SEAL status when they were not,” he said.
Watch Shipley’s 20 minute exposé on Fortner below. Shipley’s Youtube channel has several other videos which expose fake Navy SEALS. It’s shameful that so many men are insecure enough about themselves that they have to lie.
Fortner was forced to step down as deacon of his church, although his wife and kids have reportedly forgiven him for his transgressions.
Watch the news report below from ABC7 News out of San Diego.
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