Young himself lives every day with the real consequences of being a SEAL. "I'm 100 percent disabled. I got 'the bends' -- it's called vascular necrosis -- in both hips and both shoulders. I had a lot of deep diving. I trained in Coronado and did my [deepest diving] off the coast of San Diego. I've been to 180 feet on mixed gases, nitrogen and oxygen, and other types of compressed air."
Young says the type of "bends" he has can creep up on you 10 to 15 years after a particular dive. "I just started having problems walking [two years] after I got out of the Navy. First my left hip, then it spread into my right hip, now it's in both shoulders."
He turned 20 when he was in Vietnam. "That was 1970. I had two tours of Vietnam. I got the shrapnel wounds on an operation where everybody but 2 in our 14-man SEAL platoon got wounded. I'm on a cane and crutches all the time. I've lost total movement of my left shoulder and arm, I'm blind in my right eye. I still have shrapnel in my back. I'm 47. I can't work. I have a hard time sitting at the computer. I received the Bronze Star with the Combat 'V' medal and the Purple Heart from the same operation. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've been married 24 years, I have two great kids. But I take 800 milligrams of Motrin four times a day. I take stomach medicine because the Motrin eats your stomach and kidneys, and I take Tylenol when I absolutely need them. I have a high threshold of pain, being that I went through that training anyway. I can deal with it. But some days are worse than others. [It's there] every day, every night. I get very little sleep. And [people] get mad at me pursuing these men who seek the glory of being a SEAL and pay none of the price?"
* * *
"You've no idea the lengths some of these wannabes will go to," says Young's fellow frog, R.D. Russell, from Colorado, who started the archive. "One claimed to have been a SEAL admiral to help him land a top job in a San Diego corporation [whose name Russell says he promised to keep confidential]. There are only five SEALs who have made admiral. We know them all like the backs of our hands. But if the company hadn't checked with us -- he was a total fraud -- they would have hired him."
"The majority of the wannabes that I have busted personally have been financially successful," says Young. "They own their own business or they've been high-ranking officials, executives. We've even busted a [Republican] political figure in the government in the state of Florida."
"The first big one I busted," says Russell, "moved his entire family to Florida just to be near where the UDT/SEAL museum is. He found out who were the big people in the [SEAL] teams that were retired. He joined their service clubs. Got to know them. Inserted a phonied-up class list [with his name added in] into the official class list. He'd made a several-year project of it. He was the most perfect wannabe phony I ever met. It took me a couple of months to run him down. When I confronted him, he said he didn't want his wife to know or his stepson to know. It would ruin his marriage. I backed off on that one. I'd got to know his wife and his stepson. I thought, 'Do I push this further and mess with the guy's already shaky marriage?' So I got a written apology out of him and a promise he would never do it again, and I let it go at that."
But now, says Russell, the rules are much stricter. "Anybody caught, we inform the immediate family: the wife, the parents, the kids; we fax the place of employment, we contact all relevant organizations and demand that the individual be stripped of his office. We even post notices in bars that the individual frequents. These days, it's total and complete warfare. In the teams, phoniness was the one thing you couldn't tolerate. Phoniness got people killed."
But why do wannabe SEALs do it? Since the recent spate of books written by SEALs, and especially, Russell says, since the Demi Moore movie G. I. Jane, SEALs have become the glamour unit of the U.S. armed forces. And the number of wannabes has escalated. The more Russell sees, the more he thinks there may be serious mental problems in many cases. He calls the phenomenon Munchausen Complex, after the fictional German baron who exaggerated his exploits and importance. This condition is also known in medical circles as "Factitious Syndrome," in which people feign illness, victim status, or hero status to gain attention.
La Jolla psychiatrist Dr. Charles Ettari calls it the "Pretender Syndrome."
"We all tend to exaggerate. It feels good. But we know that we're exaggerating. There are some people who want to be that thing so badly they actually feel that they are it. I've seen people pretend they were police officers. [Meyer] was pretending that he was a SEAL. The positions they aspire to tend to be ones of esteem and respectability."
Ettari says it is a fulfillment issue. "It's not just that I am going to play [a SEAL]. I really am this. Down deep, there's a part of them which really believes that. And there's always a problem [that provokes the act]. Whatever it is, the pretending in that particular identity solves a problem of some kind."
Which is why Ettari believes confronting the person with the hard truth may not be the best thing. "If you take that person's ability to solve whatever that problem is away, it causes usually significant psychological distress," he says. "Most of those people ought to be in some type of therapy. They really have some issues that need to be dealt with and resolved."
But Darryl Young believes Daniel J. Meyer should be thanking him. "I didn't ruin his life. Maybe I helped it. Maybe now he can be who he is. Maybe he won't have to lie anymore and he can go through life with a straight conscience. The man was ruining his own life."