Marine standing guard at California school lied about his record

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 20, 2012 

The Marine Corps veteran who achieved national fame this week for guarding Hughson Elementary School in Hughson, Calif., had a far less distinguished service career than he has claimed in public, records obtained today show.

Records provided by the Marine Corps show that Craig D. Pusley served only nine months before being discharged as a private first class in April 2008. The personnel records further indicate that Pusley never served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else overseas.

The records contradict Pusley’s claims that he is a sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, in Baghdad and Ramadi, and one tour in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

“The record speaks for itself,” Marine Corps Capt. Kendra N. Motz said in a telephone interview this afternoon, adding that “we just became aware of it.”

Motz declined to say whether Pusley potentially faces legal proceedings for his exaggerated service claims. False or exaggerated military claims, though, are not uncommon, and as a general rule, officials appear to primarily focus on those who seek to profit or exploit others. Last June, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that made it illegal to lie about obtaining certain high military medals; justices in the 6-3 decision called the law a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

Pusley, who said he lives around the corner from the Hughson school, drew a public spotlight Wednesday when he appeared in his camouflage uniform at the campus. He explained at the time that he had read on Facebook a plea for veterans to help protect schools in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week. Twenty students and seven adults were shot and killed by a mentally ill 20-year-old, who then took his own life.

“I just want to have a word to this community that I stand between them and any danger,” Pusley originally told The Bee.

Pusley showed up again at the school this morning, after his story had gone viral nationwide. He was warmly received by students, staff, community members and retired military personnel.

Today, though, he was dressed in civilian clothes. Pusley said this morning that he was not seeking attention and regretted if he had violated any military rules regarding his uniform. He was wearing “Texas business” wear — jeans, jacket and tie.

“You don’t need a uniform to do this,” he said. Coming to stand for the safety of children, he said, is everyone’s job.

He said that another Marine veteran named Jason Pritchard, who had likewise shown up to protect a school in Tennessee, had cautioned that using the camouflage fatigues instead of a dress uniform could subject him to investigation.

Motz, the Marine Corps’ representative, disputed Pusley’s characterization. “There is currently no formal investigation (of Pritchard),” Motz said. “At no point was he asked to stop standing in protection of his son’s school, only that he not wear his uniform in doing so.”

Standing Marine Corps orders declared that honorably discharged veterans can wear their uniform only at “military funerals, memorial services, weddings, and inaugurals,” or at a variety of “parades or ceremonies of a patriotic character.”

According to the records provided today, Pusley entered the Marine Corps on July 17, 2007, and was discharged April 8, 2008. His only duty station was identified as the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

By midmorning, Pusley had left the school. Attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.

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