Part III: What a Tangled Web We Weave – The Charade

Photo Source: Carl Elmore, Savannah Morning News
Photo Source: Carl Elmore, Savannah Morning News

The emotional toll of being a POW/MIA Family Member can only be surpassed by being a POW/MIA.  We have all had our sleepless nights trying to piece together what might have happened to him or where his remains might be or, God forbid, what camp he may still be held in.   We look at the aging faces of our parents and even our siblings and other relatives who all carry the loss in the corner of their eyes and at every major family event, the topic ultimately always turns to him and how the event seems a bit empty without him there.

There is almost the incredible burden that those of us who are the PNOK carry with us – that unshakable responsibility that leaves us with that sometimes empty feeling  that everyone is depending on you to get the job done.   We daydream of the day that the flag-draped casket slowly slides down the luggage belt of that airplane in our hometown – the day that our missing warrior finally comes home.

Few people become more infuriated than we do when we hear about someone pretending to be a former POW, a Special Forces Soldier or a decorated warrior in a feeble attempt to garner sympathy, recognition and attention from those who honor their purported heroism and dedication to country.     They humbly accept these accolades and year after year of playing this charade, it becomes second nature.  They take credit for actions that men far greater than they would simply shy away from.  They tell the lies so often that they become their own version of the truth.  Yet, they are still lies, what we also call Stolen Valor.

What we are dealing with now in this situation with Susie Lowenthal-Geist-Ragan-Stephens-Harvey is Stolen Valor with a POW/MIA Family twist.  The most anguishing part of what we are about to lay out for you is that tomorrow’s article, dedicated to just one of these many online references we found, will almost make your blood boil.

Through many hour of Google searching Susie Harvey and the many variations to her name over the years, we were able to show Susie’s progression though the same stages that these military impostors who often have the Stolen Valor act used against them.  In fact, there is a website out there dedicated to publicly exposing these men who dare take credit where credit is certainly not due; www.pownetwork.org.

We found over 20 links from 1999 to 2011 showing everything from message board posts to interviews done with area reporters where Susie transitions from being the (ex)sister-in-law of US Army SSG Stephen J. Geist to being a blood relative; his sister.   What is to follow is a listing, in chronological order, of the various references to Susie over the years using a multitude of variation of the five different last names she has legally held over the years.  Interestingly enough, only her maiden name of Lowenthal appears in background check files.  We have seen her use L as her middle initial at times but while working the POW/MIA Issue, she never, to our knowledge, made use of that last name.

  • In this November 1999 post on a Vietnam memorial website:  here, Susie, referring to herself as, Susie Ragan, a sister-in-law, states, ” …his parents have passed away, and now, only his sister, brother and I continue to search for this fallen hero.”
  • In this January 2001 post on another memorial website: here, Susie again refers to herself as, Susie S. Ragan,  SSG Geist’s sister-in-law.
  • In this November 2003 post on a DAV message board: here, Susie refers to herself as Susie Geist Ragan with no mention of a relation to SSG Geist.
  • In this April 2005 post on a Veterans’ message board: here, Susie refers to herself as Susie Stephens (former Ragan) .
  • In this September 2005 these meeting minutes for the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, where she accepts a proclamation from them for POW/MIA Recognition Day, she gives a brief speech where she also introduces Allen Harvey as part of a group of local Vietnam Veterans: here, Susie refers to herself as Susie Stephens and clearly states that she is an MIA Family Member, see pages 8-10.  “My name is Susie Stephens and I stand before you as – and represent what every family in the military’s worst nightmare.  I am an MIA family from Vietnam.  I became an MIA family in 1967 …”  (Reminder: in 1967 when SSG Geist went missing, Susie was an 8-year-old girl  and still, obviously, not married to SSG Geist’s brother)
  • In this November 2005 email message to the POW Network.org, Susie gives details to add to SSG Geist’s profile: here.  Here she clearly refers to herself as a family member, Susie Geist Ragan.   At the bottom of the page you will see a link to a PowerPoint slide show that a USMC Vietnam Vet made for Susie.  It is entitled, “A Sister’s Love” and makes several references to Susie as Stephen’s sister and her love, admiration and dedication to finding her big brother.
  • In this May 2007 news article from the drag racing community: here, Susie begins to use the name Susie Stephens-Harveyand is picture and reported as, “Allan and Susie-Stephens- Harvey, representing POW/MIA Families and Special Forces SSG Stephen Geist …”
  • In this September 2007 newspaper article in the Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Georgia): here.  To bring attention to POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies in the Savannah are, Susie and Allen are interviewed.  It is obvious that Susie Stephens-Harvey has reached the point of romanticizing being a POW/MIA Family Member to garner sympathy and attention.  The reporter states how Stephen Geist is forever young in his sisters eyes, how she carried a portrait of her brother to the ceremony and the empty feeling she has inside when she thinks about her brother.  She states that having her brother’s remains returned home would bring closure and is quoted as saying, “I would probably sleep soundly for the first time in 40 years.”  Some closure apparently came when she had a marker placed at the POW Museum in Andersonville, GA.   “I felt his footprints need to show on this earth, so I put a marker there for him,” she said.  (We have to wonder if SSG Geist’s family authorized this or if Susie did it – illegally.)
  • In this July 4th, 2008 Letter-to-the-Editor: here, Susie Stephens pens an emotional and poignant letter with more romanticizing and the foot note to the letter reads, “This American woman is the sister of a Special Forces Army soldier who went MIS (sic) in 1967.”
  • In this July 2008 Letter-to-the-Editor: here, penned by someone who visited a Moving Wall exhibit had this to say, “Susie Stephens, the president of the POW/MIA Society here in Georgia was on site the whole weekend educating the visitors on those who never came home from SE Asia… at all. Her brother, Stephen J. Geist went missing in 1974. His body has never been recovered. He will certainly never be forgotten.”
  • In this undated webpage for a local jeweler in Savannah: here, Susie apparently had a friend who designs jewelry make a POW/MIA line of jewelry with proceeds going to the NLF. “My good friend here in Savannah, Susie-Stephens-Harvey is the Georgia State Coordinator for the National League of POW/MIA Families and is herself a member of an MIA Family.  Because I have such admiration for the League and believe in their worthy cause,  I always donate a percentage of my proceeds to their organization.”
  • In this September 2008 Letter-to-the-Editor of the Veterans in Recovery website: here,  Susie Geist Stephens (no Harvey, interestingly enough) sent a letter to this organization for POW/MIA Recognition Day and while she doesn’t specifically state that she is a family member or SSG Geist’s sister, it is clear that she is referring to him as a blood relative, stating that she will be honoring him at the memorial ceremony.
  • In this undated archival page on the Savannah Morning News website: here, half way down is a photo of Susie speaking at a POW/MIA event.  During the event she again states that SSG Geist is her brother.   The photo caption reads, “Georgia Committee for POW/MIA, Inc., state president Georgia/Regional 1 coordinator, Susan Stephens, was a special guest speaker at Memorial Day services in Effingham County Monday. Stephens talked of her brother, Stephen J. Geist, a Green Beret who has been missing in action since 1967.”
  • In this January 2009 post on the amvets.com website: here, Susie appears to have submitted some NLF newsletter information to the site, using the name Susie Stephens-Harvey and directing readers to the NLF website.
  • In this October 2009 post on the Vietnam Veterans of America website: here, Susie Stephens is listed as a special advisor to the VVA’s POW/MIA Committee through the NLF.
  • In this undated post on a Special Forces website: here, Susie Stephens-Harvey has given them the PowerPoint presentation, “A Sister’s Love” and readers are asked, “If you knew SSG Geist please contact his sister, Susie Stephens Harvey.”
  • In this December 2010 news article on the US Army website: here, Susie Stephens-Harvey volunteered at this event and was again referenced as being there representing her brother, SSG Geist.
  • In this May 2011 news article from Savannah, Georgia: here, Susan Stephens is highlighted as, “the state president of the Georgia Committee for POW/MIA Inc., and the sister of an MIA Green Beret.”

What is at issue here is that not only is the NLF Board refusing to follow their own By-Laws and their own policy that has been highlighted in past posts here at The POW Warrior, Susie/Susan Lowenthal-Geist-Ragan-Stephens-Harvey has been publicly portraying herself as a family member, calling SSG Geist her brother and embellishing his story and her role in his life.   This is no different from when a man exaggerates his military service, wears a uniform with medals that he has not earned or publicly claims feats of heroism that he never truly took part in.

The reason for Susie’s charade might have been noble in the beginning yet she has sought the attention that so many of us shy away from because it isn’t about us, it is about the men.  Yet Susie has become what some have called “a professional POW/MIA Family Member” all the while being an impostor.    There is even a psychological condition that was defined in the late 1970’s called impostor syndrome.

This incredible article from military.com: here, outlines, from a psychological perspective, the mentality of someone who is an impostor, such as those who impersonate Navy SEALs.   Dr. W. Brad Johnson, a former Navy Lt. Commander, senior professor at the US Naval Academy and clinical psychologist, gives three specific reasons for this behavior.   He mentions former military members who make these claims due to some tramatization or PTSD with memory difficulties.  Another is the utilitarian fibber who uses this persona only in limited situations; “In this instance, the deceiver slings on the SEAL story like a cape, hoping to use the elite persona to leverage access to career advancement, social status, or perhaps just the sack.”

The most common is:

“The Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by extreme egotism, arrogance, an unquenchable need for tribute and admiration, and an ongoing wish to be seen as special or unusual.”

Where Susie falls in not our concern.  Our concern is that the members of the NLF Board understand that they do not have a choice.  Susie must be removed from the Board regardless of what AMG wants and regardless of how she feels she can circumvent the illegality of this faux pas.  We would not be surprised to find out that the illegal nature of Susie’s inclusion on the NLF Board ballot was brought to AMG’s attention before the elections and she simply chose to ignore it because the pros out weighted the cons.  We think we know what those pros are and will post them after our final piece on Susie/Susan Lowenthal-Geist-Ragan-Stephens-Harvey.

As we told a reader who emailed us, don’t shoot the messenger.   No one twisted Susie’s arm to do this and she never made any attempts to correct these claims.   Those of us who are family members know that the press can often misquote us and misunderstand what we have told them. Yet, in this case, no comments were ever added to news stories to correct the inaccuracies or updating the article through the reporter.

If this doesn’t infuriate you – tomorrow’s article certainly will.  Our final piece in the “What a tangled Wed We Weave” series.

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