JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – You may not know him personally, but you certainly know his trademark and his mission to expose military imposters across the country. And now, the Army veteran needs the community's help to keep it going.
From his South Carolina home, Anthony Anderson runs Guardian of Valor, an organization he launched to preserve the respect and positive reputation that has been earned with honorable military service. He works with a small, five-member team to investigate, expose predators for profit, and stop those who are guilty of Stolen Valor.
So many who pose as active or former members of the military, or just lie about their service, do it to take advantage of those who embrace patriotism and America. With deception, the honorable reputation of the uniform is at risk. Anderson wants to protect it.
"What we do here at Guardian of Valor/Stolen Valor, is we act as a deterrent as we also try to educate the public," explained Anderson. "One other huge problem we are dealing with is Nigerian scammers who steal photos of real soldiers and create fake accounts. They befriend lonely men/women and get money from them by using a sad story. This is a billion dollar a year business for them. I have personally stopped several people from sending literally thousands of dollars to these scammers -- one even refinanced her home."
It's a mission that doesn't make money, but it takes money to track, thoroughly research and bring offenders to justice. Without funding, Anderson could be forced to stop.
"If we aren't able to continue, I feel that not only the Veteran community but America as a whole will lose what I think is a great deterrent to committing this crime and preying off of not only our community, but praying on the patriotism of Americans as a whole," said Anderson. "We also provide ways for people to find out more about family members who served, we have been successful in helping get new laws passed to help curb this crime. Without funding all of this goes away."
To keep it going, Anderson has teamed up with the veteran-owned business Counter Strike Coffee. With each purchase of Grounds of Valor, 25 percent goes back to Guardian of Valor. Coffee can be purchased at GroundsOfValor.com.
The organization will use that contribution to not only fund Guardian of Valor, but also reinvest into the newly formed veteran-owned company Grounds of Valor. It's a long-term plan with a win-win: It ensures the valor mission continues, and it allows Anderson to hire veterans.
"It's all about making a positive impact and our goal as vetrepreneurs is raising opportunities," explained Navy veteran and Counter Strike Coffee CEO Brandon "Doc" Buttrey.
Once Buttrey heard about Anderson's situation, he wanted to help.
"He was a veteran in need, enough said."
How it all began
Stolen Valor, the same term applied to the federal Stolen Valor Act, started as a Facebook page. While it was a great place for conversation, Anderson needed a place to post the results of his investigations, warnings about imposters and information to help the public. He launched the platform Guardian of Valor.
One of the first Stolen Valor cases that went to court and got a conviction -- with the help of civilian authorities -- was in Florida. Danny Russell Crane's case was then posted to the Guardian of Valor website to inform the public.
Anderson's mission to protect the honor of veterans as well as employ them, is born from his own military service. Before being medically retired with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, he spent 13 1/2 years in the Army.
When the infantryman deployed to Afghanistan, his job was to plan, coordinate and execute missions in his area of operations. As a squad leader with seven other soldiers under his care, they completed more than 100 successful missions.
The Staff Sergeant earned the Combat Action Badge while deployed, and he also earned the South Carolina Exemplary Service Medal for saving a soldier's life in Garrison.
There's no doubt about this: Anderson loves his country, loves the military and is driven to protect the valor so many have earned.