Until recently, Frank Thayer was known as a war hero on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He even appeared on a local TV station in 2006 to discuss his wartime experiences, which earned him a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, among other decorations.
Thayer also sported other trappings of military service: an Army ring, command pilot’s wings, official documentation from his military career and clothing bearing the Purple Heart. According to the Biloxi Sun-Herald, he even produced a motivational DVD celebrating his service—which he sold to local civic organizations.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, it was all a big lie.
On Tuesday, Frank Thayer became the latest military phony to be exposed in the Magnolia State. He was arrested at his Gulfport home, on charges stemming from the 2005 Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to claim military honors or decorations that were never earned.
Turns out that Thayer, who claimed to be a Vietnam veteran, never earned any medals. Heck, he never spent a single day in the military. He bought the decorations at a military surplus store.
His deception extended to friends and family members; when a former girlfriend questioned his lack of discharge papers, Thayer claimed the documents were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“He was tricking everybody. It’s just an insult to true military veterans. It’s an assault on them,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth Morgan, the Gulfport-based prosecutor of the case.
Thayer was released on $25,000 unsecured bond. He faces multiple charges, and could receive up to 6 months in prison and fines of $5,000 per violation, said Morgan
Mr. Thayer is the third Mississippian to be arrested on Stolen Valor charges in the past week. Last Tuesday, retired Air Force Master Sergeant Chris Billeaud of Gulfport and John Wayne Lebo were charged with making false claims about military service and the medals they received.
The Sun-Herald reports that agents from the FBI and the Veterans Administration were involved in all three cases. However, officials have not said if there is any relationship between the suspects, or if the arrests are part of a crackdown on military phonies.
We’d say that sort of effort is long overdue. Over the past year, we’ve documented a number of cases involving veterans who boasted of medals they never earned, or civilians masquerading as war heroes. As prosecutor Ruth Morgan noted, such claims are an affront to all who served, particularly those who suffered life-altering wounds, or made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Thayer, Billeaud and Lebo all deserve their day in court. But when that day comes, we also trust that a Mississippi jury will do the right thing, and give those phonies the punishment they deserve.