The Ironic Story Behind the Viral Facebook Post Referencing Caitlyn Jenner and ‘True Bravery’

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When Terry Coffey shared his thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner earlier this week, his Facebook post quickly went viral and was shared thousands of times. But the true story behind the photo is what prompted Coffey to post a second Facebook post that read, "I could have chosen one of hundreds of other photos. But I didn't, I chose this one. Do I think it was an accident? I don't."

Earlier this week, controversy swirled around ESPN selecting Caitlyn Jenner for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Unconfirmed reports surfaced on social media suggesting Jenner was given the award over a veteran who lost an arm and a leg in combat. The network has since issued a statement disputing the rumor, clarifying there is no such thing as "runner-up" for the award.

On Monday, Coffey shared a photo of what he believed was a photo of a wounded World War II soldier firing his gun at the enemy while he was being carried to safety. Coffey added a caption to the photo:

"As I see post after post about Bruce Jenner's transition to a woman, and I hear words like, bravery, heroism and courage, just thought I'd remind all of us what real American courage, heroism and bravery looks like!"

The post has been shared over 770,000 times.

Soon after he shared the photo, it went viral. However, several commenters quickly identified the irony in the photo Coffey shared.

The image is credited to Mark Hogancamp, who created the photo as part of an exercise to manage his pain after he was nearly beaten to death by five men in New York 15 years ago because he was crossdressing. He suffered serious brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, which he combats by creating World War II narratives in one-sixth scale using dolls.

A day after sharing the viral photo, Coffey posted a follow-up to his original post:

"This is the photo I shared yesterday in the spirit of spotlighting "true bravery."

This photo that accompanied my words, was chosen from a quick image search. Just wanted something to fit my words. I wanted to find out who the photographer was, so I could credit his work.

In an ironic twist, I have discovered that the photo is part of a documentary created by a man who was beaten nearly to death outside of a bar in 2000. After spending 9 days in a coma, suffering severe brain damage and being unable to walk or talk for a year, he chose to try and cope with his pain from the tragic event, by creating a world of stories and characters and photos set in WWII. The image I chose, was one of those created for an upcoming documentary. Why was he nearly beaten to death by 5 strangers?


Because he was a cross-dresser.

I could have chosen one of hundreds of other photos. But I didn't, I chose this one. Do I think it was an accident? I don't.

What happened to this man was wrong, cruel, and unforgivable.

Hate helps nothing.

Love wounds no one.

and God heals all.

(and irony makes us think)"

On Wednesday, ESPN went into further detail on how the network chooses its recipients by saying the award is meant to honor people "whose contributions transcend sports through courageous action."

"Sometimes that courage is demonstrated over the course of a lifetime and sometimes it is demonstrated in a single act that shines a light on an important contemporary issue," the statement read. "At all times, there are many worthy candidates."

"This year, we are proud to honor Caitlyn Jenner embracing her identity and doing so in a public way to help move forward a constructive dialogue about progress and acceptance," ESPN said.


  • Humble Veteran

    As a veteran who has seen 3 combat deployments to the middle east, it pains me to see how we as a country have lost sight of the things that have shaped this once great nation, and in turn brought blessing and protection over the United States for many years. We have lost sight of the hundreds of American men and woman, fighting for what they thought was a country who once “Trusted in God.” I have no hate or resentment to other who want to do what they feel is right for them, but let’s not forget about the men and women who are thousands of miles away from there family every night, and pray every day that they will just make it home. There is still hope and love in this country- but I fear that we are not far from good men failed to fight evil. Pray for America and may God have mercy on America.

    • Hey There

      And here I thought I did my combat tours to protect a nation with freedom of religion and pursuit of happiness.

    • Jessie

      I served my country to protect ALL its citizens and their rights. Whether I agree with them or not. So, I forgive you for your bigoted response here, because I fought for YOUR freedom to say such asinine things.

      I pray every day for an America that will turn to loving our neighbors and support one another, not because of any god or religion, but because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO!

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    Bruce Jenner showed real bravery putting up with those idiot kardashians for so long. That makes him a hero!

  • Proud of this kid

    Amber Ann

    Yesterday at 1:04pm ·

    Ok, I’m only going to touch this subject one more time, right now:
    (And I apologize in advance for the length of this rant.)

    There is no argument that men and women serving in any part of the military are heroic. They are brave and make sacrifices daily that I can not even begin to fathom. There is no part of me denying any of that. There are also awful things happening in the world. There is war, terrorism, murder, and sex trafficking. All of these things are worthy of news time. All of these things are worth being aware of and being spoken about. BUT that in no way means there are not OTHER issues as well.

    The whole Caitlyn Jenner “movement” right now, is simply not about genitalia. It’s not. It’s about living your entire life as a lie to placate the public. It’s about FINALLY after SIXTY FIVE years being confident and comfortable in being the TRUTH. It’s about the fact that we live in a society where being “different”, being true to YOU, is frowned upon and leaves you vulnerable to the scrutiny and judgement of others. Is it not heroic to stand up on a huge platform and present yourself as you truly are for all the world, including your critics, to see? Heroism is not something that is strictly obtained by fighting a physical battle on a battlefield. There are other battles in life. There are personal, emotional, mental, and social battles that we must face. THIS particular battle is not only subject to the transgender community, but to the human race as a whole. It is about acceptance of self and of others. It is about COMPASSION for your fellow man.

    Honestly, I wish it wasn’t news. I wish it didn’t have to be. I wish someone could do as they pleased with their own body and everyone would just say “hey, good for you!” and move on. Unfortunately, that’s not the case right now, but some day I hope it is. Someday I hope that you can be yourself without it being “news”.

    Still confused? Let me put it this way: People could have, and many probably did, say the same thing about women’s rights. Why is it “news”? No one is getting “hurt”. Sure. Maybe it’s not “news” to you, maybe it wasn’t to a lot of people then, but if someone didn’t keep fighting about making it “news” I still wouldn’t have the right to vote. I would barely have any right to an opinion. Simply because I’m female. We look at that now and think about how silly that is, but we are still doing it. Except now we are oppressing a different group of people.

    Why do I care? Does this affect me personally? Is there someone in my life struggling with this?
    The answer, to my knowledge, is no. I do not personally know a transgender individual. But I care because I have compassion for others. I care because if there is someone out there in facebook land that reads this I want them to know I’m with them. I want them to know I do not judge them, and that I love them. I care because I want to raise a daughter that knows she is loved so deeply that her sexual preference and identity is her decision to make, and that I support whatever that decision is. I CARE because if there is a friend or family member out there RIGHT NOW, or even a STRANGER who is afraid of how they feel, because they are afraid of being ostracised by the world, I want them to know they can tell me, and I will support them. I care because everyone deserves the right to be happy in their skin, and in who they are, and I will fight for that right until I don’t need to anymore.

      • Seriously?

        Take what? That’s like saying you are sick of snow and you’re not going to take it anymore. Being sick of it has no impact on whether or not it’s going to go on.

  • beedogs

    Bunch of sad, hateful, pathetic bigots down here in the comments, as usual. You folks really need to take a step back from society for a while and figure out what’s wrong with yourselves.


    To each his own. But what Jenner did was NOT bravery,it was his choice, his desire and his decision to follow thru on his transistion. Live and let live, but Jenner is NOT a hero, just a news story and and a freak show.

    • Carrie

      So what? Isn’t bravery, almost by definition, something that you do by choice? If you were forced, it’s not courage at all.
      Besides, an American soldier in this day and age is based on his choice, desire, and decision, too. So with your logic, they shouldn’t be thought of as brave either. Which is not true. And neither is your statement that Jenner’s decision was not brave.

  • Anthony Caputo

    My grandfather fought in WW2. He was very brave.

    He fought for true freedom.
    He didn’take pictures of toy soldiers to “cope” with his problems.

    He was a man a who dealt with and solved his problems.

    He was a real hero and wouldn’t believe in or support any of this nonsense.

    So any of you people touting the modern “version” of what you
    think freedom is may want to pick up a book and actually read it instead of getting all your information from the television.

    • beedogs

      And, yet, here you are, Anthony: a coward posting on the Internet about his grandpa in order to justify your own hatred and bigotry.

      I’m sure your grandfather would’ve been proud.


    • Seriously?

      My grandfather was a WW II vet. Loved him, rest his soul. First, he would cringe at being called a hero. To him it was just another job. He didn’t jabber on about it for 40 years after he got home anymore than he talked about his job at the factory 40 years after that job was over. He also loved my gay brother. Grandpa and I went fishing and he came to all my games. He went to my brother’s plays and musicals. Who knows what he actually thought but he never said anything and he never acted put out.

      He also had two favorite sayings. You can’t fix stupid and The most dangerous people in the world think God is on their side.

    • Pennywise

      Every Anthony I’ve ever known has been a real prîck.

      If you want your kid to grow up to become an A #1 dôuchebag, just name him Anthony.

      Jesus, I can still hear a dozen different mothers with their nasally, nagging voices screaming, “Anthony! ANTHONY! ANTHONEEEEY!!!” because their little angels just wouldn’t listen. Brats, every single one.

      No offense, Tony. Your name just triggered something. Bygones.

  • Mom of 3

    I hope that in 20 to 30 years this country will look more like the freedoms our men and women serve for. That prejudice of all types are gone and within that will also become a nation of people caring for others without any excuses not to as well as people taking responsibility for their actions without any excuses as well. No more putting blame or making excuses for wrong doings, because of religion, race, background, or history to blame on. As well as the rights of religion, all races, any history

  • Justwow

    Bwahahah Lloyd Schmuckface n Whiney Mad in Hazelton. A real man has respect, compassion, and acceptance towards others. Take some lessons on how to learn and practice acceptance.

    • Lloyd Schmucatelli

      I’m offended buy your comment. I have feelings too. I want you comment deleted cuz I don’t like it. Waaaa.

    • beedogs

      I hope you live to see everyone you’ve ever known and loved (a short list, to be sure) die horribly right in front of you, and that you die alone and terrified.

  • Barry Johnson

    What is this country going to look like in 20-30 years after this “anything goes” & “accept everyone” ideology runs its course?

Comments are closed.

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