These days, you almost need a scorecard to keep track of all the military phonies that keep cropping up.
Just this morning, the mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey (Bob Levy) announced his resignation from office. You'll recall that Mr. Levy disappeared almost two weeks ago, after questions were raised about his military service. Levy, who served in the Army for more than 20 years, stated falsely that he was a Green Beret, and later admitted that he had misrepresented his military career.
Unfortunately for Mr. Levy, the federal Stolen Valor Act--passed in 2005--make it a crime to make false claims about military service or honors. Various media reports indicate that Levy is the target of a probe over his Green Beret "service" (which was featured prominently in his 2005 mayoral campaign), and charges that he may have falsely claimed the Combat Infantryman's Badge, using that award to obtain additional veteran's benefits. At the time of his resignation, Levy had just emerged from rehab, for treatment of unspecified ailments. For the record, Mr. Levy is a Democrat, though you'd be hard-pressed to find the party affiliation in any press accounts of his scandal.
Still, as military phonies go, Bob Levy is something of a piker compared to the latest fraud who was literally unearthed--or, more correctly, will soon be unearthed--in New York City. By all accounts, Mr. Levy actually served in the U.S. military and even earned a couple of Bronze Stars during two tours in Vietnam. At this point, the same can't be said for New York phony who literally stole a burial plot from a vet. As the AP reports (via Military Times):
When Willie Hayes’ family began arranging his burial at a veterans’ cemetery, they were shocked to learn that the body of a man with the same name, Social Security number and military honors was already there.
Now the family wants the impostor, who was buried in 2003, removed from Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.
“If he didn’t serve in the Army, he shouldn’t be there. It’s not fair to the veterans. He stole my brother’s identity,” Hayes brother, Sylvester, said in a telephone interview Monday.
The real Willie Hayes, who died Sept. 30 at age 59, was buried Friday, but only after the family and a funeral home in Harlem provided Calverton with documentation of his military service, including the medals he earned.
Calverton, which is run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, issued a statement Monday saying it was looking into the matter.
“This was an unusual occurrence for Calverton National Cemetery and our staff will continue to work with county, state and federal government officials to determine the exact identity of the other Willie Hayes,” the statement said.
The cemetery said it had verified the information for the Willie Hayes who died last month and authorized the funeral service and burial last week.
A call for comment to VA was answered with a recording that said it was closed for the holiday.
Isaiah Owens, the funeral home owner who helped arrange the burial, said it was difficult to learn the impostor’s real identity because he had no relatives and his burial was arranged by the city.
Perhaps a better question is how the "other" Willie Hayes had the necessary documentation or information for burial in a VA cemetery. According the Veteran's Administration, establishing criteria for burial in one of its cemetaries requires detailed information:
"...the veteran's discharge document; report of casualty; or the veteran's full name; military rank; branch of service; dates of entry and discharge; serial, social security, and/or VA claim numbers; date and place of birth; and date of death.Arranging Burial in a VA National Cemetery.
It appears that the impostor was either a first-class identity thief, or someone in the city and/or VA bureaucracy helped "grease the skids" in arranging his burial. We would hope that the AP--or a New York media outlet--would ask the city and the Veteran's Administration what documentation was provided to arrange burial for the impostor, and where it came from.
The VA owes an apology to the real Mr. Hayes and his surviving family members. Had the agency demanded the same level of documentation back in 2003--when the impostor was buried--the Hayes family would have been spared the bureaucratic hurdles that delayed their loved one's burial.
Meanwhile, we can only wonder how many other phonies are interred at VA cemeteries. For the moment, we know of at least one, still buried at Calverton on Long Island.