Saturday, December 6, 2014
Bucks congressman alerts U.S. Attorney's Office to viral video by Holland veteran
Posted: Monday, December 1, 2014
Bucks County’s congressman has notified the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney’s Office about a YouTube video of a Bucks County war veteran confronting a Philadelphia man he claims was falsely posing as a member of an elite military special forces unit.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger on Monday, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick , R-8, Middletown, says the video, which has generated more than 1.5 million views since after it was filmed at the Oxford Valley Mall on Black Friday, could “possibly” contain evidence of a federal crime.
Under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which Fitzpatrick co-sponsored, it’s illegal for an individual to fraudulently portray him or herself as a recipient of any of several specified military decorations or medals with the intent to obtain money, property or other “tangible benefit.”'
The video does not show the man attempting to obtain any benefit. And falsely claiming to be a member of the military alone is not illegal.
Northampton resident Ryan Berk, 26, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan in 2010-11, confronted the alleged Ranger after seeing him while shopping with his girlfriend and her son Friday.
“No one is going to question a guy in uniform, unless they already wear the uniform,” said Berk, who earned a Purple Heart after he was wounded by shrapnel in 2010 while fighting in Afghanistan.
The newspaper is withholding the name of the alleged Army Ranger because he has not been charged with a crime as of Monday.
A woman who answered the door at the man’s house Saturday night said that he had a military background but declined to provide details. She also said the family had no comment. The woman said she hadn’t seen the 3-minute video.
Berk, who is studying criminal justice at Temple University, said he spotted the man in the Army fatigues while he was shopping in a shoe store. But when he got a closer look, Berk said he noticed “little things” that were off about the man’s appearance — the shoelaces on his boots weren’t right, an American flag patch was in the wrong spot on his sleeve, and he was missing a combat patch.
These are things that most civilians wouldn’t pick up on, but that no military veteran would get wrong, Berk said.
Berk said he didn’t confront the man in the store, but did pull aside the manager and suggested he ask to see military ID if the man asked for a military discount. Berk doesn’t know if the man asked for a discount.
What inspired him to confront the man, Berk said, was a 20-minute conversation he overheard during which the alleged soldier told a small boy about his military experiences.
“It was fueling my fire. I was getting aggravated,” he said. “I knew 100 percent he was fake but I didn’t want to put him on 100 percent blast immediately.”
After the man left the store, Berk turned on his phone camera and called him over, claiming his son admired guys in the Army. Berk did not identify himself as an Army veteran until almost at the end of his video recording.
After the man introduced himself, he claimed to be a staff sergeant with the 75th U.S. Army Rangers Regiment, 2nd Battalion. He also claimed to have recently returned to the area from Fort Lewis in Washington State, which is where the regiment is stationed.
“I’m what’s called a TAC-1,” he claimed. “All I do is I go out on missions.”
Immediately, Berk started peppering him with questions that he said anyone with Army service should be able to easily answer.
“Where is your combat patch at?” Berk asked
“I gave it to a little kid over there,” he replied.
Why is the American flag patch so low on his shoulder, Berk asked.
“You got me on that one, bud,” the man replied.
When Berk asked about where he received his three Combat Infantrymen Badges, the man first answered that he got all three in Afghanistan. When Berk responded that he would need to be in three different campaigns, the man said that one badge is for service in Iraq and the others for different tours of Afghanistan.
“You know, no matter how many you do, you can only get one,” Berk answered.
The man replied that his campaign took him “out of mission lines from Afghanistan.”
Military websites, including the U.S. Army Human Resources Command website, confirm what Berk said about the correct position of the American Flag patch and that only one CIB would be awarded for service in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn).
The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning Georgia tracks Army servicemen with three CIBs and only 324 are listed. The alleged Army Ranger is not on the list. Army regulation authorizes only up to three awards of the CIB. There are four periods for which an award of the badge can be made: World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other Cold War era actions through March 1995 and the War on Terror 2001-present, according to the U.S. Army.
When Berk called the man a phony, accusing him of impersonating a soldier, the man offered to take him to meet his sergeant major, whom he said was also in the mall. He also denied lying about his military service.
“If I was a phony, I wouldn’t be wearing this uniform,” the man said.
But Berk said he has no doubts that the man was not a Ranger.
“He’s impersonating in the uniform people died for,” Berk added. “He was wearing awards that I earned and he didn’t.”