Last night, our local ABC affiliate did a piece on the evening news about a case of Stolen Valor. The piece started out with a Marine making a very simple but obviously heartfelt statement. “Honor is everything to a Marine.” That’s what makes this case so hard to stomach. Brandon Blackstone, a Marine himself (and I use that term loosely) was sentenced to 21 months in less than a week ago on several charges stemming from forgetting what honor means.
This story really starts with Casey Owens. This brave young Texan served in Iraq in, if I remember correctly, 2004. While out on patrol one day, his Humvee hit an anti-tank mine. Owens lost both legs and suffered traumatic brain injuries, among other injuries. Owens survived and returned home. He received a Purple Heart for what happened. Unfortunately, after a decade filled with pain and surgeries and the continuing effects of his brain injury, he took his life in 2014. Casey Owens was a Marine, a hero and he served with honor.
The other key player in this story is Brandon Blackstone. Like Owens, Blackstone is a Texan. He was also a Marine and, while I know there is no such thing as an ex-Marine, I think the Corps might make an exception for Blackstone. You see, even though Blackstone went to Iraq around the same time as Owens, he did not suffer the trauma Owens or so many others did. Approximately a month after arriving there, he suffered appendicitis. He never returned to Iraq from what I can tell.
For whatever reason, Blackstone forgot what honor means to a Marine. Instead of doing what he could in the Corps or to honor his fallen comrades, he stole Owens’ story. After returning home, Blackstone embarked on a journey of fraud and misrepresentation. He told any and all who would listen about how he had been in a Humvee struck by an anti-tank mine. He traveled around the country as a motivational speaker based on this lie.
Worse, he managed to con I don’t know how many people and charities with his tale of woe. He received monies, in the thousands it’s estimated, as well as a free house because of his deceit. I have no doubt he’d still be out there conning folks if he hadn’t been caught.
According to the Dallas Morning News, in his guilty plea, Blackstone admitted to lying about receiving a Purple Heart (which got him a mortgage free home from a charity set up to assist wounded warriors. He also managed to draw disability checks for something like nine years based on his stolen valor tale. The latter entailed him forging statements from two Marines who were supposed to have witnessed his injury.
This man, and I use that term loosely, has to serve 21 months in prison and pay the VA $322,654 in restitution for the disability payments he received over the years. Even though he could have been sentenced to more than 20 years, federal sentencing guidelines mandated he serve nor more than this pittance of time. He got credit for taking responsibility for what he’d done. He will also receive credit for time he’s already spent in jail so, at most, he will serve 18 months.
That is not enough, in my mind, not nearly enough. He has done nothing to shine honor on the Marine Corps. He had dishonored the memory of every man and woman who served this country and sacrificed their lives for the rest of us. Part of me hopes he finds himself sharing a cell with another Marine, one who might have fallen from the side of the righteous but who still remembers what it means to be a Marine.
As the mother of an active duty member of the military, as someone who comes from a family where serving in the military is something we honor and respect, Blackstone gets nothing but my contempt. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Casey Owens. He sacrificed everything for this country. Other Marines I know and respect, Marines who may no longer be on active duty but who will always remember what it means to be a Marine and who will always honor the Corps, all it stands for and, most of all, their brother Marines, deserve so much more than knowing someone like Blackstone once wore the uniform they still hold dear. As for Blackstone, he deserves nothing but contempt and he sure as hell deserves more than 21 months in prison.