HUGHSON, Calif. (AP) – A former Marine applauded for voluntarily guarding a central California elementary school apparently misrepresented his service history, U.S. Marine Corps officials said Thursday.
Craig Pusley showed up for a second day of guard duty Thursday at Hughson Elementary School, this time in civilian clothes after wearing military fatigues the day before. He was gone by midmorning, after Unified School District Superintendent Brian Beck discovered discrepancies about Pusley’s military service and asked him to leave.
A day earlier, Pusley, 25, told The Modesto Bee he was a sergeant in the Marine Reserve and had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Pusley said he was unemployed and using his reservist pay to support his wife and 3-year-old child.
Capt. Gregory A. Wolf, a Marines spokesman, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Pusley never served overseas and was discharged in 2008 as a private after serving less than a year at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. He also is not a reservist.
Laura Fong, the principal at Hughson Elementary School, wouldn’t comment on the controversy Thursday because she said she didn’t know all the facts. But she said it was a “very heartwarming thing” when the former Marine showed up Wednesday, and his presence made her and the staff feel safer.
Before the controversy, parents in the small agricultural community 100 miles southeast of San Francisco thanked Pusley for guarding their children and bought him cups of coffee.
“In the beginning, I thought it was a good idea, because as a parent I was concerned about safety with everything going on,” Amber Navarro, 26, said while picking up her first-grader at the school. “He seemed like a really nice guy.”
Pusley, who did not respond to calls for comment from the AP, told the Bee he had responded to a call on Facebook for veterans to help protect schools in the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. A Facebook group called Veterans on Watch, created this month, is circulating a White House petition that calls for the employment of competent veterans as armed security guards in America’s schools, and 2,239 people have signed it so far.
“It would act as a deterrent to have a well-trained first responder on hand to neutralize the situation as soon as possible,” said Chad Walker, a former combat medic in the Army and one of the group’s founders.
WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tenn., reported that another former Marine, Staff Sgt. Jordan Pritchard, stood guard in front of Gower Elementary in Nashville on Wednesday. Pritchard, who has two children at the school, said he wanted to provide extra security to students and teachers.
Wolf, the Marines spokesman, said the Marine Corps contacted Pritchard, requesting that he stop wearing his uniform outside the school. At no point was the former Marine asked to stop standing in protection of his son’s school, Wolf said.
Former Marines are prohibited from wearing their uniform in public, except for military funerals, memorial services, weddings, inaugurals, and parades on national or state holidays.
According to the Official Military Personnel File, Pritchard served from 2003 to 2011 as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist. He was a staff sergeant and served in Afghanistan.
Marine Corps officials declined to say whether Pusley would face any legal repercussions for lying about his deployment history. However, it’s unlikely he will since his fabrication was related to an act of generosity.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law aimed at people making phony claims of heroism on the grounds that it violated First Amendment free speech rights.
Wozniacka reported from Fresno, Calif.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Caring Crisis: Rising tide In Alzheimer’s disease leads to shortage of caregivers
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain