Neville Donohue looked more like a North Korean general with so many medals dragging on the lapel of his blazer. He was decorated to the point of parody - and that is what led to a flurry of outraged blogs and emails among the veteran community that has now triggered a police investigation.
''Major-General Donohue'' first appeared on veterans' radars when he was pictured in a parish newsletter giving an Anzac Day service in front of 200 people at an Anglican church in Olinda outside Melbourne. That photograph, and another of him posing with medals at the MCG, soon swept through the online community, which derided the speaker as a fraud while asking ''who is Neville Donohue?''
Unfortunately, they will always be around.'
The anonymous vigilante-style group ANZMI (Australian and New Zealand Military Impostors) runs a ''name and shame'' website of people it claims to be fraudulent heroes. Mr Donohue has now made it onto the long roll of disgrace.
It reports: ''We are reliably advised by ex-members of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals (RA Sigs) that the 'general' is in fact ex-serviceman 313847 Corporal Neville McBryde Donohue from the Kilsyth area of Victoria. He served in the Australian Army between 1970 and 1976 and was never deployed to any operational areas. He has confessed that most of the medals are fakes but says his Vietnam medals are genuine. That is a lie.''
A retired warrant officer named Dick Yielding has alerted the Australian Federal Police and contacted retired Brigadier Neil Weekes MC, complaining that Mr Donohue has ''insulted our service … nobody has that many medals awarded to them''.
Brigadier Weekes, who was awarded the Military Cross and served as a platoon commander in Vietnam, wrote to Archdeacon Stephen May, citing his 26 years of service, including his time as an instructor at the Royal Military College: ''In all that time I never came across a MAJGEN Neville Donohue … I know, personally and very well, all the current generals.''
Brigadier Weekes has since checked the nominal roll of Vietnam veterans. There was no Neville Donohue listed.
Victorian RSL president Major-General David McLachlan said: ''These people provoke tremendous anger amongst those who have served - and for obvious reasons. But, unfortunately, they will always be around.''
John O'Connor, who is a medal expert and consultant with Noble Numismatics in Sydney, viewed Mr Donohue's hoard of medals and said: ''If he was a general and he'd been to every one of these campaigns, then he would also likely have an Order of Australia.
''He's got that many medals, he must have been on every single operation ever mounted.''
Veteran impostors, or ''wannabes'' as they are more generally known, award themselves medals and often appear for Anzac Day parades and speeches - in which they have been known to weave tales of bravery and scrapes with the enemy.
Bogus veterans usually fall into two categories: some are genuine servicemen who feel the need to inflate their records, while others have never been near a frontline.
Last month, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence David Feeney announced changes to the Defence Act that make it an offence for people to wear a service medal in a manner that falsely indicates it was awarded to them, as opposed to a family member or relative. Already, people falsely representing themselves as returned service personnel, or wearing medals that were not earned, can face up to six months' jail and a $3300 fine.
But rather than see him prosecuted, Weekes would prefer Mr Donohue apologise to veterans, cease wearing the medals and reflect on the ''slur'' he has brought to soldiers who truly saw combat.
On Saturday, a family member who asked not to be named, said Mr Donohue had done a ''short tour'' of Vietnam and had never talked about his wartime experiences. He said Mr Donohue had done many jobs, including as a salesman, and was a devoted family man - especially to a son born with Down syndrome. Of late, he said, Mr Donohue has been battling a brain tumour.
''Maybe he was in the special forces and so nobody knows what he really got up to,'' the relative said.
''It'd be awful if he's become delusional because of the tumour.''