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05-22-06, 11:07 AM #1
Waging war against military imposters
Borrowed from Hubby..
By STEVE VISSER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Marine Corps veteran Stephen Walker was honored to meet Richard Thibodeau, especially when he read about the heroism that earned his fellow Gwinnett Marine the Navy Cross in Vietnam.
"When I got his biography, I took it over to my dad's house, I was that impressed," said Walker, a Gulf War veteran. "I thought 'How can I be in the same room with this guy?' It made me feel small."
Richard Thibodeau, 64, claimed to have received the Navy Cross, but the Lawrenceville resident's claims have turned out to be a hoax.
Volunteer George Patsios, 91, of Lilburn, a former communication specialists in Germany during the war in 1944, shows some of the items he loaned to the Gwinnett Veteran's Memorial Museum in downtown Lawrenceville on Friday.
The Navy Cross brought Thibodeau, 64, a seat of honor at the Marine Corps League's Georgia banquet May 13 at the American Legion Post 251 in Duluth. The Navy Cross citation, outlining acts of uncommon valor, hung in the Gwinnett County Veterans Memorial Museum in Lawrenceville. Thibodeau claimed in the paperwork he supplied the museum to have retired as a sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank in the Marines.
But the citation, the medal and the rank all were lies.
Thibodeau now admits he never served in Vietnam, never earned the Navy Cross, never saw combat. He never was a Marine.
The Lawrenceville resident, a medical technologist, is one of the latest of a growing number of military frauds.
Doug Sterner, who runs homeofheroes.com, a Web site that honors genuine heroes, said he has referred the case to FBI Special Agent Thomas Cottone, who investigates medal fraud.
Cottone wouldn't confirm there is an active investigation, but medal fraud is becoming more prevalent nationwide as military service has risen in prestige among Americans, especially in time of war.
Walker, the 35-year-old commandant of the Gwinnett chapter of the Marine Corps League, said Thibodeau had been well liked by metro Atlanta Marines. Now he hopes Thibodeau will be prosecuted.
"Everybody is completely in shock. This thing completely blindsided us," Walker said. "I hope he gets what he deserves."
Cottone, based in New Jersey, said he has come across about 50 referrals of fraud involving medals like the Navy Cross in the last year.
"I guarantee you that this Memorial Day and this Veterans Day, there will be many people out there wearing unearned military awards," he said.
The imposters' motives range from pure ego to profit, Cottone said. Wearing medals for valor is a federal offense that carries prison time, he said, but the real punishment is public exposure.
Thibodeau admitted to the Journal-Constitution that he illegally wore the Navy Cross. He later admitted he was never a Marine, despite claiming in an e-mailed apology to real Marines that he had been wounded while in the service.
Hal Gosnell, a retired Marine Reserve colonel in Rome, outed Thibodeau after the banquet when he couldn't find Thibodeau's citation listed on homeofheroes.com.
He sent a copy of the Navy Cross citation to Sterner, who found it had been plagiarized almost word for word from the legitimate citation of another Marine who earned the Navy Cross in 1966.
"I had several friends in the Marine Corps League who vouched for him," said Gosnell, 66. "The whole thing unraveled."
In an interview with the Journal-Constitution, Thibodeau blamed the lie on a prank that had gone awry. He claimed his actions were mitigated because he only deceived his fellow Marines.
"I never went to a parade or a school touting it, it was only the Marine Corps League," he said Thursday night. "At least I had enough integrity for that ... In my mind I wasn't harming anyone because I wasn't capitalizing on it."
Thibodeau explained that the deception began about 13 years ago. He and two friends he described as Marine vets had a mocked-up photograph that showed Thibodeau wearing the Navy Cross. At Marine get-togethers, one of the friends would pull out the photograph as evidence he was a war hero, Thibodeau said.
"He just got a real kick out of how many people were that stupid," said Thibodeau. "Then I couldn't say anything because if I did it would hurt them and make the believers look stupid."
Norm Worthington, a medically retired Marine staff sergeant in Buford, said Thibodeau wasn't a reluctant party to a bad joke. He said he even once heard Thibodeau complain that his achievement was overlooked at a Marine League gathering in Birmingham, Ala.
Thibodeau helped organize the Gwinnett veterans museum, and donated the fraudulent citation to it, Worthington said.
"He put himself there," said Worthington, who was the chairman of the Marine banquet in Duluth. "My wife and I - my wife was a Marine too - are just totally devastated."
Thibodeau claimed a friend put his citation in the museum.
He has changed the story about his Marine service repeatedly since the Journal-Constitution first interviewed him. On Thursday night, he claimed he had been part of the elite Marine Recon in Vietnam. But after learning that Sterner, who runs the hero Web site, was pulling his military records, he admitted he had never served in Vietnam.
On Friday morning, he e-mailed the following message: "I have never been in the military. I have never been to Vietnam. I have never had any dealings with the military."
Sterner noted that Thibodeau's paperwork at the museum said he had retired as a sergeant major. Other Marines said Thibodeau claimed to have retired as a master sergeant.
"I guess he couldn't keep his lies straight," Sterner said.
"This was just a stupid, immature thing that took on a life of its own," Thibodeau said. "Then it becomes a question of ego and you don't want to admit you screwed everyone, so you keep the lie going."
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
05-22-06, 12:30 PM #2
It turns my stomache to read about a$$es such as this, who, in my opinion, would stoop so low, just for a "prank". I don't think he was "reluctant" in any part of it. If he was so uncomfortable about the deception, then he would of come clean to begin with, before it even got out of hand. People like this have no honor or respect for those who actually served and bled for this country.
05-22-06, 01:18 PM #3
This scumbag is wearing medals and awards earned by men better than his low A$$.
Wonder how much money that complete set of Dress Blues set this scumbag back?
05-22-06, 01:31 PM #4
There is so much of this kind of low-life stuff going on around the country that it seem half the people are doing it. There are a lot good sites that is exposing these low-life sobs. pow.network's phonies index
05-22-06, 03:56 PM #5
Unfortunately, for every jacksh$t puke that gets caught, there are another five to take his place. It's like you said Sgt, it's become the norm. It's like trying to stop leaks in a levee with one or two swabs.
05-22-06, 04:18 PM #6
05-22-06, 04:22 PM #7
05-22-06, 05:16 PM #8
How did this guy get into the Marine Corps League?!! Didn't they check him out before they let him join? This makes me sick! What kind of sleeze bag does this? What he did was not a joke, it criminal and he should do time for his "hoax". Maybe in federal prizon he'll finally learn what that this is not a joke. There's a purpole heart on the uniform he's waring, and gold jump wings! I don't have @#(&^% gold wings! And this slime... ... I can't think abput this any more, I'll go nuts.
05-22-06, 05:21 PM #9
Another Marine points out, this lowlife/scumbag isn't even wearing the rank he was claiming.
Those are 1st Sergeant stripes not the stripes of a Sergeant Major.
It got past my eye, but some Marines have hawkeye vision.
What a low-life and scumbag.
And I concur, he should do time, so he might learn that this no joke to other Marines, Ricardo included...
On a second or third look, these lowlife/scumbag is wearing the Purple Heart medal...now I'm really hot...Because to me, many Marines earned that medal by being wounded in combat, to me this worst than him wearing the Navy Cross...
05-22-06, 06:57 PM #10
Look close-----------and--------you will find--------there are no crosed rifles in the red center. Them strips are of 1959 and later.
05-22-06, 11:29 PM #11
The cross rifles are there because I check on a image program.
He almost correct but wearing jump wings of a parachutist and the Purple Heart.
To me is worst than wearing the Navy Cross, but on second thought.
He stealing the valor of some Marines, who did acts of valor resulting in them becoming recipents of the Navy Cross.
Which right below the Medal of Honor.
Now did he also forge a DD 214 to get into the Marine Corps League?
I printed out from the neck down as far as the belt buckle and he has everything where it should be.
But he still a Lowlife/Scumbag in my book...
05-23-06, 01:48 PM #12
05-23-06, 02:11 PM #13
There was a time when we wouldn't be sitting around wondering what is going to happen to this person.
05-23-06, 02:56 PM #14
Ya'll know I don't live very far from this guy.......................any requests?
05-23-06, 10:49 PM #15
Take it easy kid, he's not worth it. He'll ware the shame of this thing as long as he lives. And I hope he lives a vary long time. He should and will suffer. Every Marine should keep a copy of his picture so he can be identified where ever he goes. School kids should be able to pick him out at 100 meters and say "hey (mommy)daddy there goes that guy who lied" Exposure is the worst thing that could happen to him. H shouldn't be able to outrun or outlive his lies. Personally, I think rat bastards like this one, and there's plenty of 'em, should have fraud tattood on their forheads. Anyway I wish him a vary long and vary public life!
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