I caught up with this story last week but didn’t bring it up before now, mostly because it was just too sad. The tale in question revolves around a court case featuring Darryl Lee Wright. Darryl volunteered to serve his country in the National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2005. While there, his vehicle was struck by an enemy rocket, injuring Mr. Wright physically and leaving him with severe PTSD to the point where he was completely crippled in terms of interacting with normal society. He was eventually awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge. Returning home he required extensive support and benefits just to keep going for years on end.
Or so he had everyone believing. As the Washington Post recently reported, it was all a lie. He was there on the day in question, but the rocket missed his vehicle completely. The rest was a fabrication.
Wright did serve in Iraq, court documents say, and he was patrolling in Kirkuk at the time of an August 2005 attack.
But the rocket aimed at his Humvee missed by more than 300 feet, according to an official Army report. No one was injured by the small explosion, the Army concluded.
The military’s report included statements from Wright, who “made no mention of sustaining injury or otherwise suffering any effects from the explosion.”
“As far as anyone on our team getting hurt, no, that didn’t happen,” then-Capt. Mark Moeckli told the Associated Press earlier this year.
Wright racked up one set of benefits after another, receiving as much as $10K per month at one point. Each benefit he received was used as documentation for more claims. He drew his sister into the web of lies, acting as his paid caregiver and the total amount of money he scammed us for reached $750K. Meanwhile he was actually out participating in a local sports league, volunteering with the Fire Department and generally having a heck of a good time. Now, when the sentencing phase of his trial concludes, he’s looking at as much as twenty years in prison and a quarter million dollar fine.
But all of those charges are for defrauding the government out of all the benefits. It’s a form of theft and certainly merits the punishment coming his way. There will, however, be no punishment for the biggest theft of all… Stolen Valor. It’s a crime frequently perpetrated by people who never served in uniform at all, but in some ways it seems even worse when it turns out to be one of our actual service members. While Darryl is to be commended for originally volunteering and putting his life on the line, all of that credit is washed away by his subsequent actions. He has stolen something far more valuable than money because he sacrificed his own honor and tarnished the spirit of all those who truly suffered in defense of the nation. By comparison, a thief who simply steals money from a bank is nearly a saint.
The final sentencing will come soon and it’s hard to argue that Wright deserves everything the judge gives him.