As a story teller on this forum I agree wholeheartedly. I tell personal stories because that's my qualification, often, for saying anything. And I often have to reflect on whether the story I am telling is real. But I have diary records going back to the early 1970s.
The reality of human memory is that we will remember a moral theme in our experience, and we will clothe that theme in whatever flesh we can craft. So, yes, there was a fish, but the size we claim can be a function of the drama catching it meant to us - as opposed to a plain fib..
True. However, regarding my point about soldiers and cops; these jobs are not nearly as exciting as what we see in the movies. In reality, even in combat arms - even if involved in special ops - even if during war time - 95% of your time in the military isn't going be action packed. It's studying intel or waiting for intel to get it together, training and then training some more, waiting and waiting some more. Painting things, digging holes, cleaning things.... This time is usually passed by entertaining each other with swapping stories. "This is no BS....". "So, there I was....", "I heard from a guy in B company...." It's like a way of life. All day every day. Law enforcement is the same (I am told) with endless hours spent of stakeout, waiting for phone calls, paper work and more paper work.
Some of the stories are constructed for old timers to impress, scare or instruct newbies. Some are straight up for comic relief. Some are for personal aggrandizement. Some are allegories to express some general reality. Some of it's just plain old rumor and gossip spreading.