Craig Pusley, a man standing guard outside Hughson Elementary School, Modesto, Calif., claimed falsely that he is a Marine Sergeant, reports say. He admitted that he had only borrowed fatigues from a friend and that he is only a "private first class."
According to Christian Post, Pusley has apologized for the damage and controversy that his action has caused. He explained that he only wanted to help make students feel safe after the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hooks Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut. According to the Christian Post, he said he feels "horrible" about the negative publicity he brought to the Marine Corps.
A photo of Pusley standing guard outside the Hughson Elementary School was posted to various websites. In the photos, he wore the insignia of the rank of sergeant. According to the Christian Post, when he was asked why he was standing guard outside the school, he said he wasn't going to allow children in the neighborhood live in fear of coming to school. He told a reporter: "I just want to have a word to this community that I stand between them and any danger."
The Modesto Bee reports Pusley said: "I'm part of a Marine Corps fraternity, and I started noticing online postings that if Marines stood in front of schools, we never would have had the Connecticut problem. When I enlisted, I swore to defend this country from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I just want to be sure all these kids go home safe for Christmas."
NY Daily News reports that Pulsey, who has a 3-year-old son, stood guard in combat fatigue but was not armed. He said he does not need a weapon: "I don't have a fear in the world that if someone came here, I'd have the strength and the ability to protect."
Although, media reports said Pusley, 28, left the Corps as a sergeant after deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, Navy Times reports that Marine officials say he graduated from boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, but was in the service less than a year. According to Navy Times, Pusley is not a Marine Sergeant and he has never risen above the rank of private first class. His official designation is "basic Marine."
However, Pusley told Marine Corps Times that he never lied about his military service. He claimed that the reporter who first interviewed him got her story wrong. He said: “There’s a lot of fabrication to this story that didn’t come out of my mouth. All I know is that I talked to a Modesto Bee lady, and everything went crazy.”
Military Times, however, reports that Mick Rubalcava of Modesto News, provided a video of Pusley saying he is a sergeant and that he served in Afghanistan. He claimed he was wounded in Afghanistan.
Pusley claimed that he’s still in the Marine Corps Reserve with “123 Weapons.” According to Military Times, this refers to the "Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines." Pulsey told Marine Times that he left the Corps in 2008, after serving a year because officials said he went on unauthorized absence. Military Times reporter confirmed that story.
Navy Times also points out that photographs show him wearing the rank insignia of a sergeant. He said he borrowed the uniform from a friend and that he was not aware of the implication of the insignia. He said: "I feel horrible about this. My intention was for the kids. I don’t understand why everyone has to find a negative in every situation.”
But the Christian Post reports that his claim that he borrowed the uniform from a friend only complicates issues for him because such an act is against Marine Corps policy.
He has offered to stand guard in front of the school without wearing Marine Corps uniform. But Navy Times reports that Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett, said: "This is not the right thing. Not the right time. And not the right place. The uniform doesn't make the man. It's your character that defines you."
Military Times reporter comments: "We come across people in Pusley’s predicament frequently... Donald Laisure... in 2009... claimed to be a retired four-star general who earned the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and an Air Medal in a 54-year career that included service in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf War. In reality, he served less than a year on active duty before leaving the service as a private. California records also show he was once married to convicted murderer Susan Atkins, the ex-wife of serial killer Charles Manson."
Digital Journal also reported that a Marine and father in Nashville, Staff Sgt. Jordan Pritchard, stood guard outside his childrens' school, Gower Elementary School, in fatigue without a weapon.
He said: "I feel like this is something I had to do."