INSIDE EDITION'S INVESTIGATION INTO MILITARY PHONIES
"It enraged me that somebody would do something like that, such disrespect and dishonor...to every marine that ever put on the uniform." - Fallen Hero's father.
New York, NY - April 4, 2007 - An Inside Edition investigation has uncovered several individuals dressing up as decorated servicemen and posing as war heroes. The report will be broadcast Wednesday, April 4 on W*USA9 at 4:30 pm, ET. (Check local listings for markets other than Washington, DC).
John and Shawn Wroblewski, parents of fallen soldier and Purple Heart recipient J.T. Wroblewski, were victims of one of these military phonies. More than 1,000 people attended JT's funeral including Isis Walter Carlson, who was dressed in a full dress marine uniform sporting a chestful of medals including three purple hearts.
"He was right there standing next to me," Wroblewski says, "I never had a question. I just figured with all of these medals he was wearing, I kind of respected him."
However, the Wroblewski's later found out Carlson was a habitual military phony, a bus driver from Summit, New Jersey who had never served a day in the marines.
"It enraged me that somebody would do something like that, such disrespect and dishonor to bring to a funeral, but not only that, to every marine that ever put on the uniform," Wroblewski tells Inside Edition.
Officials estimate there are thousands of hero impersonators across the United States. Inside Edition was even able to purchase a prestigious Navy Cross on the internet for a mere $70.00.
Michael Weilbacher, a 48-year old St. Louis businessman, is another offender who has been buying medals and dressing up as a decorated marine for years. He even attended a military ball, which raised suspicions among several servicemen.
"He was wearing more decorations than any military member could probably achieve in a lifetime in the military," says Lieutenant Colonel Gary Johnston.
Weilbacher, who refused to talk to Inside Edition, was arrested and pleaded guilty to wearing military medals he didn't earn.
Inside Edition's report included showing a clip from a speech given to veterans by a real Vietnam veteran, Jim Fields who claimed in the speech he had received the Navy Cross, the second highest decoration for valor awarded by the Navy, from his commanding officer Oliver North.
Inside Edition showed Fields speech to the well-known Lieutenant Colonel North, who is currently the Host of War Stories on Fox News Channel.
"I'm pretty sure I would have remember that," North says. "I do not recollect the events that he described, nor do I recollect him being in my platoon."
Fields later told Inside Edition he was sorry about the deception.
Congress just enacted "The Stolen Valor Act" in an attempt to crack down on bogus war heroes like Fields, Weilbacher and Carlson.
The Wroblewski's are hopeful this new law will stop imposters from dishonoring the nation's true heroes, like their son."You're stealing something from our son. From all the fallen heroes, you're stealing what they fought for, what they stand for and that is wrong."