Stars and Stripes duped by Army sergeant’s war claims
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — An Army reservist in Afghanistan with the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion who told Stars and Stripes that he deployed during the Vietnam War has come under military investigation for apparently lying about his prior combat service.
Staff Sgt. Larry Marquez, a civil affairs specialist, stated that he deployed to Cambodia in 1973 after enlisting at age 17 with his parents’ consent.
A story about Marquez ran under the headline “Vietnam vet joins ‘today’s war’ ” in Jan. 13 editions of Stars and Stripes and was also published on the newspaper’s website.
Stars and Stripes failed to perform basic fact-checking to verify any of Marquez’ claims about his service record. The newspaper was alerted to inconsistencies in Marquez’s account by a blogger, Jonn Lilyea, who runs the military blog “This Ain’t Hell.”
Lilyea raised questions about whether Marquez, whose current age Stars and Stripes reported as 55, would have been too young to serve during the Vietnam War. Lilyea also questioned the timing of Marquez’ alleged year-long deployment in Cambodia, given that most U.S. troops were withdrawn from Cambodia by the end of 1970 and from Vietnam in 1973.
Lilyea pointed to Marquez’s profile on the electronic database Army Knowledge Online, which showed that he enlisted in 1974.
Stars and Stripes then contacted officials with the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), or USACAPOC(A), which oversees more than 40 reserve units, including the 425th.
The unit launched an investigation and found that Marquez first enlisted in 1974 at age 18 “and he never served in Cambodia or Vietnam,” according to Lt. Col. Gerald Ostlund, a public affairs officer with USACAPOC(A).
In the same email, Ostlund wrote, “On behalf of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) I sincerely apologize for his misleading you, his false statements, and the embarrassment to … Stars and Stripes.”
The 425th’s investigation is ongoing. Marquez could face discharge from the reserves and other penalties if it is determined that he made false public statements about his military record.
Lilyea also questioned other claims by Marquez about his military service, but Stars and Stripes was unable this week to confirm whether they were also untrue.