28 March 2013
Over the past couple of years, I repeatedly warned the US Army that Master Sergeant Christopher “CJ” Grisham is a lethal threat. These warnings were ignored.
Grisham has harassed a long list of people, and has stalked me. Ignoring him did not work. Grisham contacted units with which I was embedded, and he impeded my wartime work. I continued to warn the Army that if they did not get this Soldier under control, there would be consequences. After some time, the inevitable occurred.
I never met Grisham. Never saw him in person. Never spoke with him. Initially, his motivations for stalking me were mysterious, apparently stemming from my failure to answer an email during a period when I was receiving thousands. Despite my efforts, nearly 8,000 emails remain unopened, though I continue to work through the backlog. Grisham seemed to be upset that I did not reply. I do not recall his message.
Over time, Grisham’s intentions became clear. He craves attention, and I had a large footprint at the time, due to public interest in the wars.
Grisham joined the angry chorus of stay-at-home, radically rightwing milbloggers who were apoplectic when I declared from Afghanistan that Brigadier General Daniel Menard should be fired. When I subsequently added General Stanley McChrystal to the list and called for him to be relieved, the criticism reached a crescendo.
Months later, Menard was relieved of command, charged with transgressions of military justice, based on a few comments that I published on Facebook.
President Obama then fired General McChrystal due to his own indiscretions. I returned to Afghanistan at the personal invitation of General Petraeus.
Grisham can be persuasive. He wasted no time contacting Soldiers attached to the combat unit that I embedded with, filling their heads with stories, some of which were believed by those who were dull enough.
Although I was giving positive ink to 4-4Cav, problems percolated from Civil Affairs (of all places) Soldiers that I had not yet met, and my subsequent total face time with them does not exceed five minutes. Grisham had contacted members of the Civil Affairs unit attached to 4-4Cav, to rally them against my work. Members of 4-4Cav and their families appreciated the dispatches and made me feel welcome, but the Civil Affairs tainted by Grisham became a problem.
Meanwhile, Grisham was a poster boy for Soldiers’ Angels, a charity organization that was later exposed funneling donations to a company partially owned by the son of the founder. Nepotism.
Grisham raised money for Soldiers’ Angels, and he persuaded them to join him in creating problems for me. Collectively, they leaked over social media, and their activities gradually came into focus.
SA shared the same modus operandi with Grisham: when anyone posed an innocent question about their activities, the questions were not met with polite answers but were dismissed with aggressive public ridicule and ad hominem attacks. Valid questions were never answered.
Donors were afraid to ask about the lavish parties thrown by SA, and the habit of a board member to misuse donations to fly his girlfriend to assignations. The curious were beaten down and ridiculed.
The leadership of Soldiers’ Angels implemented a culture of fear. Members were afraid to question their leadership, and to criticize it was to invite a tidal wave of ill. Some members were afraid to leave the organization to join another.
There is nuance: SA is a vast organization, and members out on the tendrils who were doing important work may not have realized that at the core, SA was rotting.
Many folks will defend SA with their hearts, not realizing the charades and politics back at HQ. Adding to confusion, unrelated organizations lifted the name “Soldiers’ Angels,” though are not related to the original group.
These details lead to misunderstandings. When criticizing Soldiers’ Angels leadership, many people may believe offense is directed at them, when in reality the ridicule is limited to this group at HQ.
Initially the leadership of SA had its way, but when I left the war, there was time to research the charity and the subsequent revelations were devastating. The organization today is collapsing.
In retrospect, they realize it would have been better to leave me alone in the war.
In 2011, while we both were in Afghanistan, Grisham made a not-so-veiled threat in writing that he would like to kill me. I was accompanying combat missions in Zhari, while Grisham never left Kandahar Airfield (KAF) about twenty miles away. KAF was the hub that I often passed through and sometimes lived on.
So now I needed to be watchful for IEDs, suicide bombers, enemy gunfire, green on blue attacks and US Soldiers in the rear, in the form of Grisham and his pals. I had to worry about my back, so it was over.
The US Army should never leave senior NCOs in war zones carrying automatic weapons when they display signs of instability, and for the most part, this policy is observed. Sometimes troops are disarmed, or the bolts are removed from their weapons, but many blue on blue murders in Iraq and Afghanistan still occurred.
Grisham complained on his blog and on Twitter of fear, stress, and mental issues while he was in Afghanistan, and the Army subsequently did the right thing and sent him home about halfway through his tour.
Grisham saw no combat in Afghanistan. He publicly insists that he completed his tour there. This is a lie.
Given my vulnerability to a defamation lawsuit, I would not dare write these words if they were untrue. If any of my statements were unsupportable, Grisham and Soldiers’ Angels could crush me in a court of law.
It will never happen. Truth remains an affirmative defense, and they are all sufficiently public figures. I lawyered up in advance of publishing the most perilous pieces. We reviewed every word in detail, figuring that a lawsuit was inevitable.
Grisham boasts that he received a Bronze Star with V (valor) award for wiping out an Iraqi squad with only a grenade and a pistol. In three years of embedding with units in combat, I have never seen such a feat, nor heard about anything comparable.
Why is this important? Soldiers’ Angels siphons millions of dollars that could go someplace worthy, like Fisher House, and Grisham, despite his behavior, remains influential through his writings and podcasts.
He uses the Bronze Star medal and “PTSD” as credentials, and simultaneously wields both the medal and “PTSD” to shut down anyone who dares challenge his views. He sometimes interacts with national media.
Grisham refuses to publish the narrative for his Bronze Star medal to support his claims.
Repeated FOIA requests return no evidence that Grisham ever engaged an Iraqi squad. No one who served with Grisham has come forward to support his statements. Where is his commander who submitted the story of wiping out an Iraqi squad? Give us names, a date, a place. If this occurred, he was out there with a unit and there would be plenty of witnesses.
Eventually, as so often happens, Grisham’s Bronze Star citation materialized:
Unlike most Bronze Stars with V, which are appropriately granted for specific acts of valor under fire, Grisham’s does not cite a particular incident.
A typical Bronze Star with V cites a specific event, such as this: http://www.armywriter.com/bronze-star-medal-v-device.htm
Grisham’s is a strange citation for someone alleging that they single-handedly wiped out an Iraqi squad. The omission reeks of a scam.
Grisham’s medal is an attaboy, a “Thank you for coming to the war” award, issued for the period 20 March to 30 April. The Army issues these like confetti during a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Yet Grisham unleashed an advertising blitz. In 2009 the Army Times interviewed Grisham and published:
“…during the invasion of Iraq, Grisham took down a squad of Iraqis when his counterintelligence detachment got pinned down in an ambush. He earned the Bronze Star with ‘V’ after rushing through the gunfire by himself with just a 9mm pistol and a hand grenade.”
If true, Grisham should have received a Silver Star, and knowing Army Public Affairs, they would have run this up the flagpole.
Nowhere in Grisham’s records that have been released through FOIA is there any mention of this alleged action. No eyewitnesses have stepped forward to confirm his claims.
It appears that Grisham duped Army Times staff writer Jon R. Andersen, who despite my repeated efforts to seek clarification, also refuses to provide evidence for the claim, thus jeopardizing the credibility of Army Times.
Andersen and Army Times appear to be carrying Grisham’s water in what amounts to a case of Stolen Valor.
Gannett, which owns Army Times, can clear this up by publishing the documentation that allowed Army Times to print that account of Grisham’s actions.
One might believe that Soldiers who have been to war have no reason to engage in Stolen Valor, yet even otherwise admirable soldiers often embellish their pedigrees.
A Command Sergeant Major of FORSCOM engaged in Stolen Valor when he lied about being a POW. Those who are interested can Google the perplexing case of CSM Richard Cayton.
Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda was Chief of Naval Operations when he was called out for wearing an unauthorized “V” device for valor. He committed suicide. Shot himself in the chest.
By many accounts Admiral Boorda was a great officer. I have seen people talking about him in private circles, people who knew him well, who said he deserved the “V”, but it was not authorized.
Such cases erupt so often that the Ford Motor Company could learn something from the Stolen Valor assembly line.
Jessica Lynch was awarded a Bronze Star with V, while assigned to the same Division during the same timeframe as Grisham.
Jessica was described as bravely fighting back the enemy during an ambush, but she later stated that she never fired her weapon and that she was unconscious during the engagement.
Jessica honorably asserted that she did not deserve the award.
This was during the beginning of the Iraq campaign when the number of medals being handed out practically threatened a bronze shortage.
Such cases illustrate the difference between Stolen Valor and Counterfeit Valor.
When Ranger Pat Tillman was killed by fratricide by other US Rangers, it was distressing, and embarrassing.
Pat Tillman turned down a multi-million-dollar NFL contract to serve his country. In return, our own men shot him, and then his command manufactured a coverup. There was no enemy around. The shooting was done by Tillman’s own unit:
From Pat’s Silver Star narrative:
“Caught between the crossfire of an enemy near ambush, Corporal Tillman put himself in the line of devastating enemy fire as he maneuvered his fire team to a covered position from which they could effectively employ their weapons on known enemy positions. His audacious leadership and courageous example under fire inspired his men to fight at great risk to their own personal safety, resulting in the enemy’s withdrawal, his platoon’s safe passage from the ambush kill zone, and his mortal wound. Corporal Tillman’s personal courage, tactical expertise, and professional competence directly contributed to his platoon’s overall success and survival. In making the ultimate sacrifice for his team and platoon, Corporal Patrick D. Tillman reflected great credit upon himself, the Joint Task Force, and the United States Army.”
This palliative, keep-your-mouth-shut medal, though completely counterfeit, was endorsed by General Stanley McChrystal himself, who later warned President Bush that it was fake: the truth was leaking, muddying the water of lies.
Later, the three-star General McChrystal received a fourth star. When I encountered his bullshit in Afghanistan, I bucked the prevailing winds and I asserted that he should be fired. This was severly damaging to me, but that is fine.
Jessica and Pat were both cases of Counterfeit Valor, where their imaginary actions were manufactured for public relations. The awards were administratively real.
These were not cases of Stolen Valor. The recipients did not carry the bucket of public relations lies. Jessica debunked them. Pat was dead. The Rangers in his platoon spoke for him.
Had Jessica fallen in line and kept her mouth shut, we might never have known. How many times has this happened?
Counterfeit Valor cases can be difficult to prove because they are often included in official records. Witting officials already have lied about them.
It is no secret that some commanders submit medals to cover their own poor performance, or to disguise embarrassment, or as favor.
Most saddening is that I have been with numerous battalions where nearly everyone in the battalion deserved at least a Bronze Star with V.
Deuce Four in Iraq is a fine example. Even most of the TOC-jocks went on hairy combat missions. This battalion, and others, such as 4-4Cav, 2-7Cav, 1-6FA, 1-4INF, and most of the 1st and 5th Styrker Brigades, Pedro, Dustoff, all those excellent British infantrymen, deserved nearly blanket Bronze Stars with V, or equivalent. The British Soldiers deserved it just for showing up to work in Basra and Sangin.
In many of the units I wrote about, the hard part would not be in figuring out who deserved the award, but who did not. My friends from all of these units do not brag about all the war they waded through.
Stolen Valor cases are often exposed when the perpetrator is immodest. As the tales unfold, the perpetrator displays typical behaviors:
1) Attention is garnered because he (sometimes she) is boastful, or because perpetrators exploit credentials for gain or fame. Such decorations are abused to support VA claims for PTSD, for example.
2) When confronted, Stolen Valor perpetrators typically refuse to provide documentation, saying they are above it. A corollary to this behavior is the claim that “records are classified.”
In practice, this is rarely true. When the “classified records” card is played, assume that the claim is fraudulent until proven true.
In the perhaps 1% of cases where the statement is factual, there are mechanisms that the VA can employ to verify them.
3) The person under scrutiny is uncooperative, makes counteraccusations and unleashes ad hominem attacks, claiming that investigators are on a witch hunt. (Sometimes they are.) This deflection is common. In all cases, releasing pertinent documentation could make the dispute vanish and exonerate the accused. But since the accused is guilty, he digs in.
4) FOIA requests to the National Personnel Records Center return no supporting documents, upon which the accused indicts the military for poor record-keeping (which is sometimes shoddy), while still refusing to provide documentation themselves.
5) They threaten lawsuits, and they sometimes actually file suit, but they lose. I watched a recent case closely.
A lawyer named John Giduck claimed special operations expertise in his background biographies for speaking engagements and in his books, and he made big money presenting seminars to law enforcement agencies around the country. After the speaking tour begins, it becomes its own credential and often nobody checks the original man.
Giduck made outlandish claims and was exposed as a fraud, yet he sued real special operations veterans for telling the truth.
Sadly, a few credentialed members of the special operations community vouched for Giduck, and a famous and influential author sent me a long email in support of John Giduck.
People such as Giduck can be difficult to expose even when the glove fits. When they have strong social support from credentialed people, and when the house of cards is discovered, sometimes the supporters dig in with the accused because they are embarrassed, or because they have personal interest in ensuring that his credentials not be shattered. This creates a fog of confusion. Using counteraccusations, even a guilty party can come out on top.
This dynamic in the Giduck case caused a rift within the special operations community. A small number of corrupt diehards defended Giduck, though most of his allies fell silent.
The majority called out Giduck, and then Giduck sued nearly 50 people. Giduck lost his case, and was ordered by the judge to pay the attorney fees of those he had sued.
Giduck so far has refused to pay, so the defendants have placed liens on his real property. Other defendants have filed a countersuit. The case continues. I continue to watch with interest as motions fly.
6) Some, when cornered, finally confess to fraud, while others carry the stink to the grave, even when everyone sees through. Giduck is still dug in like a tick on a hounddog.
Both the Special Operations Association and the Special Forces Association repudiated him, but Giduck insists that he is the victim of a “global criminal conspiracy to destroy his business.” He still has defenders.
7) Some appear to truly believe that they performed the actions that they claim, even when their claims are definitively disproven. They seem prone to self-delusion.
Powerful contrary evidence can include proof that they were not in-country, for example, or that they were assigned to a different unit, or that they never served in the military.
These cases unfold frequently. Some people probably believe they are Jesus, but others latch onto the military. Perhaps they are not lying in the moral sense because they seem to believe it, just as some people believe they are sorcerers or vampires.
Given Grisham’s refusal to provide supporting documents, the repeated FOIAs that returned no evidence, his frequent boasting about the medal, his constant ad hominem counterattacks along with perpetual threats of lawsuits, and the vanishing possibility that he is Rambo enough to wipe out an Iraqi squad with a grenade and 9mm pistol, a reasonable man can conclude that it is probable that Grisham is lying.
Grisham does not owe explanation to me, but he owes it to you, and to the public at large, and he owes it to those whom he asks for money.
He owes explanation to the Gannett Corporation and to Army Times staff writer Jon R. Andersen, whose credibility is jeopardized.
Gannett and the Army Times have an obligation to subscribers, to readers, and to advertisers to come clean.
If Grisham duped the Army Times, fine. It happens to the best of us. Come clean. We will get over it quickly.
But if Gannett and the Army Times aids and abets Stolen Valor or disrespects readers by failing to confirm that it has legitimate evidence, it undermines its own credibility and legitimacy.