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Old 09-15-2008, 05:42 PM   #1
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Corpsmans Purple Heart, was it earned???...

Corpsman’s Purple Heart at issue



Article 32 hearing held on fakery accusations
By Andrew Tilghman - [email protected]
Posted : September 22, 2008

NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. — Chief Hospital Corpsman Robert J. White didn’t get his Purple Heart under normal circumstances.
But whether he forged documents in order to wear a medal he never officially earned remained an open question at the close of his Article 32 hearing here on Sept. 11.
The 42-year-old corpsman claims that on July 25, 2005, he took shrapnel in his hand during a massive mortar attack on his Marine company with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve unit, in Hit, Iraq. He is a full-time support sailor, according to Navy records, and was selected for senior chief in March.
More than three years later, he stands accused of filing false documents, making false statements and knowingly wearing a Purple Heart he never formally received. The three charges each carry a one-year sentence and could leave the 19-year sailor with a dishonorable discharge.
White did not testify at the one-day evidentiary hearing and instead sat silently, wearing a black jacket and wire-rimmed glasses, next to his attorneys.
Although White’s claim to his Purple Heart involves the mortar attack that day, testimony at the hearing revealed several other versions he’s told over the past few years to explain how he earned the award. He told one person that he was in a Humvee hit by a roadside bomb. To another, he said he was blown out of the back of a 7-ton truck. Sometimes when asked about it, he said he didn’t like talking about his Purple Heart, according to testimony.
Serious questions about White’s Purple Heart started with one of his co-workers, John Peter DeCaprio, a senior chief store keeper who worked with White at Naval Station Great Lakes, who grew suspicious after hearing rumors that White didn’t earn the award.
DeCaprio called Marine Forces Central Command and learned that the Marines Purple Heart database had no record of White’s award. Soon a formal investigation began.
Prosecutors say White submitted to a Navy clerk a letter from MarCent confirming his Purple Heart — but that it was a forgery.
A close look at the letter shows the font is slightly different from the official Purple Heart letters, an investigator testified.
Prosecutors also pointed to the fact that White never received his Purple Heart at a formal ceremony, as Defense Department regulations require.
Testimony about his injury

Nevertheless, White’s attorneys called witnesses who testified that White was injured in Iraq and a casualty report was filed for a decoration.
One gunnery sergeant recalled seeing White at Camp Hit a few weeks after the mortar attack. The Marine asked White about the half-inch scar on his hand.
“He said he took shrapnel during a mass casualty,” said Gunnery Sgt. John Myers Jr. “He said his focus was to take care of his injured Marines. I asked him if he did a [Personal Casualty Report] for that and he said he didn’t because it wasn’t big. He said he thought a Purple Heart was greater — like for people who get shot.”
Myers said White changed his mind about seeking a Purple Heart after learning that the battalion’s sergeant major was getting the medal for a relatively minor injury.
“When the sergeant major did it for just a scratch, [White] said let’s go ahead and do it,” Myers said.
Myers later filed a PCR for White, putting the corpsman on track for the medal. Filing that paperwork was part of Myers’s job as an administrator with 3/25.
White’s defense was good enough to get one key charge removed. His initial charges included specifications under Article 107 — making false statements. But the prosecutor dropped those at the end of the hearing, citing a lack of evidence. The remaining three charges are under Article 134, the general article.
Attorneys said one of the most suspicious aspects of White’s Purple Heart is that he never got a formal ceremony to mark the honor.
An explanation for that came from one of White’s former girlfriends, Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Melissa Morgan, who also testified at the hearing.
Morgan said she and White had a troubled relationship — that he allegedly assaulted her in a Las Vegas hotel room back in November 2005. “He slammed me down on the ground and tried to choke me,” she said. Hotel security got involved and word of the incident got back to those in her command.
After that, many of the Marines at their unit in Moundsville, W.Va., gave White the cold shoulder and became noticeably more distant from the corpsman they once treated as a friend.
Morgan and White continued to date off and on. During that time, White told Morgan that he came into work one day and found a package on his desk — inside was his Purple Heart and its official paperwork.
“Do you think it was his relationship with the Marines at the time that made them just drop it on his desk,” White’s attorney, Lt. Adam Goodin, asked Morgan.
“Yes,” she said.
Rear Adm. Douglass Biesel, commander of Navy Region Midwest and the convening authority in the case, will decide whether to take the case to a court-martial after receiving a recommendation from the Article 32’s investigating officer
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Old 09-16-2008, 03:55 PM   #2
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