Vets tag Marine as liar
Man sentenced for false Purple Heart claim
By Steve Fry
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2007
A Marine who falsely claimed he received
the Purple Heart for service in Iraq faced a verbal barrage in
court Tuesday from combat-wounded veterans.
Over and over, the veterans stood to blast
Timothy Allen DeBusk for his lies and for staining the military
award reserved for those wounded by the enemy or killed in action.
DeBusk, 27, who wasn't wounded while
serving in Iraq, pleaded guilty Sept. 7 to dealing in false
identification documents and making false information. The felony
convictions are tied to making a forged document saying he had
been wounded during the Iraq War to obtain a Purple Heart license
tag for his car. DeBusk was a sergeant when he was an active-duty
Shawnee County District Court Chief Judge
Nancy Parrish sentenced DeBusk to two consecutive eight-month jail
terms, ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation and said
he must perform 200 hours of community service.
Assistant District Attorney Kim Knoll said
DeBusk shouldn't be assigned to perform community service at a
"It has been requested that he not be
placed with the Veterans Administration because of the nature and
the emotions connected to this case," Knoll said.
By law, Parrish had to suspend the jail
terms and place DeBusk on 18 months of probation.
"You very much violated the honor
that (these combat-wounded veterans) have received and the honor
that others wounded in combat have received," Parrish said.
DeBusk, who appeared in court with his
"I am very sorry for what I
did," DeBusk said.
Upon his return from Iraq, DeBusk thought
he was a deep disappointment to his father, who he said was a
Purple Heart recipient.
"I didn't have the Lord at the
time," DeBusk said, adding he did now.
Veterans noted DeBusk's sentencing
occurred on the 25th birthday of The Wall, the Vietnam Memorial,
and two days after Veterans Day and three days after the 232nd
birthday of the Marine Corps.
George McKnight, who was a master sergeant
who suffered burns and shrapnel wounds when two rocket-propelled
grenades struck his tank during fighting in Vietnam during the
1968 Tet offensive, was terse and pointed.
"You are a despicable person,"
McKnight said, then sat down. McKnight retired in 1985 after
serving 21 years in the Army.
Russ Estes opened and closed his hand on
his own Purple Heart as he spoke on behalf of the more than 58,000
American service members killed in Vietnam.
Estes noted many Purple Heart recipients
suffer guilt, asking themselves why they survived when their
buddies were killed.
"Mr. DeBusk, I am embarrassed for you
that you would cheapen the symbol of veterans who have earned the
Purple Heart from a grateful nation for the giving of their blood
or their lives," Estes said.
Another veteran, Jim Freel, was a
19-year-old Marine corporal when he was wounded on the first day
during the battle of Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.
His brother, Pfc. Billy Bob Freel, was
killed May 7, 1945, in fighting in the battle of Okinawa.
"I personally feel the actions of
this young man are an insult to the Corps and to those of us who
have earned the right and the honor to wear the Purple
Heart," Freel said.
Another veteran was Harry Bryant, who
served in the Vietnam War and was hospitalized for two years while
recovering from gunshot wounds.
Bryant, a machine gunner, was shot in the
left arm, left foot and twice in the right hand.
Bryant, a retired Marine sergeant, spoke
of another Purple Heart recipient, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class
Bienvenido Geniza Dona, more commonly known as "Doc."
After Bryant was shot on March 23, 1966,
Dona was treating his arm wound when a sniper shot Bryant in the
hand and fatally wounded Dona.
"No one remembers HM3 Dona, our
corpsman, who died at my feet as he was giving me medical
attention that life-changing evening," Bryant said.
"Yet, there are some who want to steal his glory. These
people should be held accountable for their charades."
Steve Fry can be reached at (785) 295-1206
or steve.fry@cjonline com.