Military Retirees React To Purple Heart Fraud Cases - - The News for South Mississippi

Military Retirees React To Purple Heart Fraud Cases

BILOXI (WLOX) -- A former Keesler general says people who dishonestly received military medals perpetrated "a massive distortion of history." Lt. Gen. Clark Griffith earned several medals during his time in the Air Force. He expressed anger, resentment and disgust at actions of Frank Thayer.

Thayer is the Pass Christian man who admitted in court that he falsified Vietnam war stories to receive a purple heart and a bronze star.

Gen. Griffith and former Col. Dick Wilson met with WLOX News in front of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. The general was looking at pictures in a book.

"This is the one that just blows my mind," he told the colonel.

The book is titled "Stolen Valor." It details military cases similar to the Frank Thayer admission that he falsely received a Purple Heart medal. Yet, like the indictment against Thayer, the man in the picture reportedly lied to receive military medals.

"I feel sorry for the guy," Gen. Griffith said about Thayer.

Neither Gen. Griffith nor retired Col. Wilson were ever injured on the battlefield. In fact, when Wilson said to Griffith, "You never had a purple heart, did you?" the general laughed and said, "No, I ducked."

On stone monuments in the Biloxi park were pictures of 99 local heroes who did pay a physical price to protect America from its enemies, without ever thinking about the consequences.

"Your memories are those comrades you were with," Wilson said, "and the friendships you had, and the service and dedication you had."

However, in two recent indictments, local men have been accused of fraudulently receiving military rewards. Gen. Griffith calls those men wannabes.

"They put this together in a story they repeat so many times, then they start believing it," he said.

Col. Wilson worries that people who make up stories are mentally ill.

"They feel that they need a reward, and they want to be in the limelight and things like that," he surmised.

Rewards were never a consideration when these airmen flew missions in combat. Col. Wilson said the only focus "should be I went to serve my country, not to get rewarded." In his mind, protecting America's freedom should be enough of a reward for anybody in the military.

One way to check somebody's military record is to read that person's discharge papers. The DD 214 form lists service time, final rank and honors earned while in the military.

By Brad Kessie

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