People making false claims about military service do a disservice to veterans, the leader of a national group that monitors such cases said Thursday.
Doug Sterner, who runs a website called Home of Heroes from Alexandria, Va., said he learned from a blog post about Craig Pusley of Hughson.
The blog site, This Ain't Hell, buzzed with opinions about Pusley, who wore Marine fatigues while standing watch Wednesday outside Hughson Elementary School in response to last week's school massacre in Connecticut.
The Marine Corps on Thursday refuted Pusley's claims that he had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and reached the rank of sergeant.
Such claims, Sterner said, are "taking advantage of this nation's respect for those people who honorably served in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Sterner, a Vietnam War veteran, worked to pass the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a federal crime to falsely claim to have earned war medals. The Supreme Court overturned the law in June on free-speech grounds.
Frank DiBartolo of Oakdale, who served in the Marines from 1953 to 1957, said he had conflicting feelings about the Pusley matter.
"I respect what he's trying to do (at the school)," said DiBartolo, commandant of a local detachment of the Marine Corps League. "Whether it's legitimate I'm not sure it was."
Scott Jensen, chairman of the psychology department at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, said he was not familiar with the specifics of the case.
"I would say in general terms that it's not uncommon for people to overstate themselves at times," he said.
Jensen said he understood the desire of people to protect those close to them in the wake of the shootings.
"There's a natural stress and a feeling of a lack of control when something like this happens, especially to children," he said.
Sterner said the Stolen Valor Act involved claims to have earned military medals, so it apparently would not apply to Pusley. He said he nonetheless is troubled by exaggerations.
"I see it on a daily basis," Sterner said. "It's going on all the time."
False claims are not confined to the military. In Modesto in 2004, Avinesh Chand "Ace" Singh pleaded no contest to a charge of disturbing the peace related to pulling over drivers with a fake police car.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.