Protect the warriors; go after the phonies.

September 23rd, 2009 by MOTHAX

Rick Duncan was a Marine with a compelling story to tell, and tell it he did, to anyone who would listen.  A graduate of the Naval Academy, Rick had been in the Pentagon when the plane hit on September 11, 2001.  Volunteering for duty in Iraq, Duncan rose to the rank of Captain, and although openly gay, was assigned to lead a Marine Battalion in the battle of Fallujah.  During the house-to-house battles there he had a finger shot off and suffered a severe head injury that required a plate be put in his head.  He returned to the states disillusioned with the war and became executive director of the Colorado Veterans Alliance.

    Partisan, VoteVets asked Duncan to be a blogger for them where he wrote under the handle of “USMCinCO.”  The radical anti-war group “Iraq Veterans Against the War” (which does not require service in Iraq) asked Capt. Duncan to appear at several of their events to talk about his experiences.  Various candidates for state and Federal offices in Colorado during the last election cycle asked Duncan to appear in their political commercials.

    But Rick Duncan never existed.  He was in fact Rick Strandlof, a man wanted on an outstanding warrant.  In March and April of this year his story started to fall apart, with military bloggers chronicling every facet of his downfall.  VoteVets and IVAW quickly scrubbed the internet of his presence, and the campaign ads featuring him speaking were removed from YouTube.  Anderson Cooper of CNN delivered the coup de grace…

    In July of 2005, Representative John Salazar, Democrat from Colorado introduced the “Stolen Valor Act.”  Briefly summarized, the act provides that (among other things):

    The bill passed both the House and the Senate (in a version sponsored by Kent Conrad of North Dakota) and was signed into law by the President on December 20, 2006.  The Denver Post reported on the bill after it was signed into law:

    Last week I began to hear rumors from people I knew in Colorado that the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, David M. Gaouette, had decided against prosecuting Duncan/Strandlof.  Perplexed by this, I contacted his office by email:

    The response was a rather terse “Please contact FBI Special Agent [redacted] at 303-629-xxxx”  And so I did. 

    I spoke with the Special Agent, who happens to be a former Marine.  Now, let me interject that the FBI in Denver is a top notch outfit, as proven just this weekend by them arresting 3 men on terrorism related charges.     The Agent that I spoke with knew exactly what I was calling about, and every minute reference     I dropped about the Duncan Affair he knew off the top of his head.  Now, I will not relate the entire conversation, since I am sure he would rather not be dragged into this, but he made it abundantly clear that it was the US Attorney’s decision alone to drop the case (which he seemed to disagree with) and that he was not authorized to tell me much more than that.  He did inform me that the process is that the office of the US Attorney will send a letter to the FBI declining to prosecute on the charge, and generally contain the reasoning such a decision was made.  He said he had not as yet received that letter, nor would he be at liberty to release it to me even if he had.

    I once again contacted the US Attorney’s office, and the PR guy who had initially responded to my email replied to neither my follow up emails, nor to my phone message.  I next contacted the office of Representative Salazar, however two voice messages have not been returned as of the time of publishing this post.  If either the US Attorney or Representative Salazar responds, I will post that response in full.

    Outing phony veterans has been a bit of a cottage industry for Military Bloggers.  The most notorious was probably Jesse MacBeth, a man who claimed to have served in Iraq with the Rangers and having killed “hundreds” of Iraqis, some while they took refuge in a mosque.  His story was debunked fairly easily, what with wearing his beret backwards, his sleeves rolled the wrong way, wearing the wrong color T-Shirt, and the fact his stories couldn’t pass even a rudimentary laugh test.

    Earlier VoteVets had been burned by a guy named Josh Lansdale, whose tales of the horrors of war were debunked by his own first sergeant, and numerous members of the media who had embedded with his unit.  Television Ads for VoteVets featuring Josh as well as one for a Senate candidate were quietly retired.

    No case has been as abundantly clear as that of “General Baxter.”

    Jonn Lilyea of This Ain’t Hell requested the military records of “General Baxter” through a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Personnel Records Center who confirmed that Baxter had been discharged as a PFC. The Baltimore office of the FBI declined to investigate, despite a picture of him wearing a Combat Infantryman’s Badge and a Silver Star (among other unearned awards.)

     I truly don’t understand the logic of the US Attorney for Colorado and the FBI office in Baltimore.  To those of us who served in combat, each of these phonies robs a little bit of the honor we earned through our military experiences.  Duncan, MacBeth and Lansdale all used their phony war records to push a radical point of view, one which The American Legion and other veterans organizations spend a great deal of energy trying to refute.  The service-member as blood-thirsty villain meme is one we actively must refute, whether it appears in a New York Times article using skewed statistics to show that service-members are more prone to violent criminal acts, or the now discredited DHS report that returning men and women are ripe for recruitment by radical fringe groups.

    We will continue to debunk these individuals who do harm to the legacy of the warriors of today and yesterday, but it would be nice if we could count on the US Attorneys and FBI agents to uphold the law in order to help us.

     After all, isn’t that why these laws are passed?