Retired Navy captain Mike McGrath, with whom I've worked on several Vietnam-related feature stories, gave his permission to have this posted at the obituary blog. I've eliminated the reporter's name, even though you'd be likely to find it easily, because this type of hoax could happen to any obit writer in the country.
If this post works (I sympathize with Andrew McKie's earlier confusion over posting) I'll add a separate post with Mike's details of how to spot military wannabes.
Capt. McGrath's letter, addressed to the Express-News reporter:
I am retired Navy captain, Mike McGrath. I am the historian of NAM-
POWs Corporation, a 501 (c) organization for the POWs of the Vietnam
War. I am writing about the obituary you did dated Thursday, October
20, 2005 for the San Antonio Express-News, titled "Munoz was held as
POW nine months in Vietnam War."
I know you print information that is provided by the family, but you have
been hoodwinked with false information. Mr. Munoz was never held for
even a single day with any one of us, the surviving 661 POWs of the
Vietnam War, nor is he known by the Department of Defense in this
regard. This appears to be a cruel hoax he foisted upon his family, and
the readers of your fine newspaper.
This often happens to Obit writers. They get false information, and do
not have the means to check it out before they publish it. You were
correct to contact "officials at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery," as
stated in your article, but you should really contact the Department of
Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Washington, DC.
Contact Larry Greer, Public Affairs Officer during Washington, DC
working hours at: 703-699-1169. Fax 703-602-4375.
Larry.Greer@osd.mil Mr. Greer is info copied on this message. He will
be expecting your call. He was never "listed as missing in action," as
your article stated. If he was, he would be listed in the PMSEA, as
noted in the next paragraph.
An official listing of all 3,792 MIAs/POWs is available on the internet at:
http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/pmsea/files.htm Mr. Munoz is not listed.
There is no debrief on file (with the 661 debriefs from the rest of us).
No service record documentation. No unit after-action reports,no
casualty reports, no CACO assignment to the family, no Western Union
notification to the family, no base commander's notification to the
family, no service communication with the family, no Purple Heart
award, no awards in connection with his claims, medals, decorations,
witnesses, medical record entries, Veterans Administration
documentation, or corroboration of any kind. His service records are
available to you through the National Personnel Records Center in St.
Louis, MO if you are interested in a follow-up to the false information
that was provided to you. Simply submit a Form 180 request, under the
FOIA. You'll have the results in 30 to 60 days.
5 years 8 months POW in NVN
www.nampows.org (See also: www.pownetwork.org)
See attachment for ideas how these con-artists work
What a nightmare. I haven't been snagged in such a net yet, as far as I know, because we do as much background checking as we can, but this could happen to any one of us. Another good reason why "citizen obits" are not such a hot idea, unless they run as paid ads -- and you can say anything, at $33 a column inch.
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