Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another Military Phony in the Magnolia State

Until recently, Frank Thayer was known as a war hero on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He even appeared on a local TV station in 2006 to discuss his wartime experiences, which earned him a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, among other decorations.

Thayer also sported other trappings of military service: an Army ring, command pilot’s wings, official documentation from his military career and clothing bearing the Purple Heart. According to the Biloxi Sun-Herald, he even produced a motivational DVD celebrating his service—which he sold to local civic organizations.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, it was all a big lie.

On Tuesday, Frank Thayer became the latest military phony to be exposed in the Magnolia State. He was arrested at his Gulfport home, on charges stemming from the 2005 Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to claim military honors or decorations that were never earned.

Turns out that Thayer, who claimed to be a Vietnam veteran, never earned any medals. Heck, he never spent a single day in the military. He bought the decorations at a military surplus store.

His deception extended to friends and family members; when a former girlfriend questioned his lack of discharge papers, Thayer claimed the documents were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

"He was tricking everybody. It's just an insult to true military veterans. It's an assault on them," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth Morgan, the Gulfport-based prosecutor of the case.

Thayer was released on $25,000 unsecured bond. He faces multiple charges, and could receive up to 6 months in prison and fines of $5,000 per violation, said Morgan

Mr. Thayer is the third Mississippian to be arrested on Stolen Valor charges in the past week. Last Tuesday, retired Air Force Master Sergeant Chris Billeaud of Gulfport and John Wayne Lebo were charged with making false claims about military service and the medals they received.

The Sun-Herald reports that agents from the FBI and the Veterans Administration were involved in all three cases. However, officials have not said if there is any relationship between the suspects, or if the arrests are part of a crackdown on military phonies.

We’d say that sort of effort is long overdue. Over the past year, we’ve documented a number of cases involving veterans who boasted of medals they never earned, or civilians masquerading as war heroes. As prosecutor Ruth Morgan noted, such claims are an affront to all who served, particularly those who suffered life-altering wounds, or made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Thayer, Billeaud and Lebo all deserve their day in court. But when that day comes, we also trust that a Mississippi jury will do the right thing, and give those phonies the punishment they deserve.


lilbit_72401 said...

What ever happened to the idea of innocent until proven guilty. You are unjustly accusing people of things that you do not have all of the facts to. I agree with you about Frank Thayer because he has already plead guilty to the charges that he faces, however you cannot prejudge the other two without having your facts straight. Did you ever stop to think about the fact that just maybe someone in the Vetrans Administration made a mistake on the paperwork and the only thing that Chris is guilty of is ignorance? NO, of course you did not. You hear about a story and automatically that person is guilty. Well, I challenge you to submit the proof in which he is guilty and I will submit the proof that states that he is not. This is a man that gave up time with his family to serve and protect the freedoms in which we hold dear and never once asked for the recognition nor the valor of it, so again please have your facts straight before you judge a book by its cover.

George Smiley said...

Lilbit--As we noted in the post, Billeaud and the other defendants are entitled to their day in court. But let's examine the circumstances that led to the charges in the first place.

According to court papers, agents from the Air Force Officer of Special Investigations (AFOSI) visited Sergeant Billeaud's home last year, in response to claims that he was representing himself as a retired Chief Master Sergeant--two grades higher than his actual retirement rank. While at his home, the agents noticed Billeaud's Purple Heart license plate and asked if he had actually won the decoration. His answer, according to investigators, was "no."

I commend MSgt Billeaud for his many years of service to this country. But, based on his recent actions, he seems to have a credibility problem, to say the least. I also spent 20 years on active duty. In retirement, I have never mis-represented my final military rank, nor the decorations I received--and I still have the citations that accompany my medals.

If Billeaud feels he earned the Purple Heart during the first Gulf War, there are ways to address such claims--other than obtaining a Purple Heart license plate through reported deception.

Based on what prosecutors have presented (so far), I'd say the burden of proof lies lies with him. I look forward to seeing how this case plays out in court.

LargeBill said...

lilbit said: "What ever happened to the idea of innocent until proven guilty. You are unjustly accusing people of things that you do not have all of the facts to."

Sorry, but the concept of innocent until proven guilty is a courtroom matter. The author wasn't accusing him of anything. The proper authorities have accused the three posers of breaking the law.

Keep in mind, we aren't talking about some half drunk guy embellishing to impress a girl at a bar. No, this guy went so far as to get a license plate claiming an unearned honor.

lilbit_72401 said...

As you all may have guessed this is my father that I am refering to in my comment. No his credability has never been a question because he neer lied about being awarded the purple heart. He has been trying for a few years since his retirement to get the Air Force to accept medical documents that say he is a purple heart recipient, however that has yet to go through. Now what did happen is the day that he went for the paperwork needed to obtain his disability tags the guy told him that he was eligable for the purple heart tags, so of course he thought that his paperwork for the purple heart had finally gone through and he got it so he said well yeah give me those tags. The reason behind why he said that he was not awarded the purple heart is because the recognition of it came from the VA not the Air Force itself.

lilbit_72401 said...

Largebill....Again you are also assuming that he has not earned the honor. Do you know him personally? Do realize that he has many diabilities that are all related to the time that he spent in Saudi. One of them is that he has limited feeling on the left side of his entire body because there was a scud attack and when he dived into the shelter he was hit with sandbags that broke the shelter and his neck, also leaving a piece of shrapnel in his head. I understand your feelings about those who do fake things and if this were actually the case I would be upset to, my father is just not one of them.