Stolen valor is a topic, which crawls under the skin of any true American patriot. Individuals who lie about serving in the military, or over exaggerate their service spit in the face of every service member who has, and continues to serve with honor. The motive behind those who commit these offensive acts range from panhandling for money, preferential treatment, and government benefits, and in some cases, these scoundrels of American society just want attention. Thankfully, there are groups like Guardians of the Green Beret who vet claims of stolen valor and expose these frauds for what they are.
Such is the case with a man by the name of Papotia Reginald Wright, who claimed to have served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and retired as a Command Sergeant Major. The false claims, which Mr. Wright presented to the unsuspecting public, allowed him to form the 8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard. The Stars and Stripes investigated Mr. Wright’s service record and found that he served in the United States Army from 1982-1990 as a truck driver while only rising to the rank of Specialist.
On multiple occasions, Mr. Wright got into full dress uniform, sometimes at a service member’s funeral, and on one occasion dressed himself up at a New York Giants’ game. Steve Antson from Guardians of the Green Beret investigated Mr. Wright and uncovered that the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and other accolades on Mr. Wright’s uniform were all fake. It is now likely that Mr. Wright will face prosecution under the Stolen Valor Act which makes it a federal offense to lie about military service and awards for monetary gain.
Refuting claims that he misrepresented his service, Mr. Wright said he never claimed to have been in Special Forces, that his rank in the 8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard was honorary, and that he did drive trucks for the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 5th Special Forces Group. Mr. Wright went on to tell The Stars and Stripes news publication that his honor guard served under the U.S. Army’s Authorized Provider Partnership Program where organizations like his would perform military honors at funerals in addition to honor guard ceremonies. Mr. Wright’s explanation, however, did not address the fake awards he displayed on his uniform.
Even the name “the 8th Special Forces Regiment” seemed to be a rip-off, which is an apparent reference to the real 8th Special Forces Group who was responsible for counterinsurgency operations during the Cold War in Latin America.
Guardians of the Green Beret became aware of Mr. Wright’s scam when the Guardian of Valor veterans organization alerted their Green Beret brethren that Mr. Wright was lying about his U.S. Army service to promote his honor guard and to seemingly by default benefit financially.
Adding to his despicable record of stolen valor, Mr. Wright even claimed he participated in the events surrounding combat in Mogadishu where 18 service members were killed, and real soldiers served. The problem with Mr. Wright’s claim that he was in Mogadishu is that his service ended in 1990 as confirmed by his military personnel file. While investigating Mr. Wright’s claims to infamy, Steve Antson from Guardians of the Green Beret found multiple sources who claimed Mr. Wright would always tell the same crazy story about fighting in Mogadishu. As reported by Stephen Carlson from Stars and Stripes, “Multiple people confirmed to Antson that Wright told the story of an enemy fighter who snuck up behind him and cut his kidney out. He’s saying he is walking around with half a kidney. Wright never received a Purple Heart, according to his military records.”
The investigation into Mr. Wright lying about his military service also uncovered that he used his lies to gain access to military vehicles, various sporting events, and at one point even hobnobbed with General David Petraus.
Currently, the Honor Guard website has been taken down with an announcement signed by a so-called Maj. Tammy Feliciano from the Honor Guard’s S-1 office. The only problem is Ms. Feliciano never served in the military as confirmed by Guardians of the Green Beret.
Federal authorities and officials in Brooklyn, New York, where Mr. Wright lives have not announced if there will be an official criminal investigation into the apparent lies Mr. Wright promoted for his own benefit. However, one thing is certain, Mr. Wright’s charade is over, and his reputation is rightfully destroyed.
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