It's a testament to the military's relentless attention to detail that a man can pass himself off as a woman easier than he can adopt the guise of a professional soldier.
Construction worker and Canadian Forces wanna-be Franck Gervais was outed within seconds of appearing on CBC Television as part of the November 11th Remembrance Day coverage at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Numerous irregularities in Gervais's "uniform", including his personal grooming and accessories, triggered an instantaneous reaction on social media among serving CF members, veterans and civilians familiar with the military dress code. Within 24 hours, Gervais was in headlong retreat and holed up in his Ottawa-area home.
At first glance, Gervais is a pathetic and almost sympathetic character. We all have fantasies, and his is to command the admiration and respect reserved for members of the military who've put their lives on the line in the service of their country. Nobody was physically hurt by his deception, and he's the only one who came out of it looking like a complete fool.
In military circles, however, impersonating a soldier is serious business, and not just from a legal standpoint. There's a bond and a code among comrades-in-arms that's not found in any other interpersonal relationship - an intimacy that, while not sexual, is just as powerful. When someone who hasn't paid their dues in duty, honour and sacrifice tries to claim membership in the fraternity (and sorority), it's a grievous offence against those who belong. Retired US Navy Seal Don Shipley has made it his mission to ferret out imposters, and You Tube is rife with videos of fake soldiers and phoney war heroes being exposed by genuine military personnel, the courts and the media.
Franck Gervais got his 15 minutes of fame, but it cost him his reputation and his dignity, and it could yet cost him his job. His notoriety will make it difficult to land another gig, but all is not lost. With his penchant for disguise and the aforementioned lesser attention to detail in female impersonation, perhaps he has a future as La Belle Francine at Bar Cleopatra.