A former Marine from Cherokee County had plenty to tell a newspaper reporter about his service in two war zones, but now CBS46 News has learned his stories were little more than tall tales.
Several former Marines who served in Iraq contacted CBS46 investigative reporter Jeff Chirico to report one of their own, James "Manse" Towery, never accompanied them on missions overseas.
"He's pretending to do what we did. It's incredibly offensive," said Bryan McKinney. "He ruins it for every vet. He drags our honor through the mud."
McKinney served in the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, NC; the same unit in which Towery served from 1999 to 2007.
Two articles that appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on injuries Towery claimed to have sustained while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The articles explained that Towery was shot in the chest and a ricocheting bullet knocked out 14 teeth. The article goes on to explain that rocket shrapnel injured Towery's leg.
According to the article, Towery claimed to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and a photo that appeared with the article showed two Purple Heart medals hanging in frames on the wall.
One article indicated Towery received a telecommunications job for disabled veterans.
"He didn't deploy with us," said Mark Mattson, who said he snapped a photo of Towery the day the unit deployed, leaving Towery behind.
The Marine Corps told CBS46 News that personnel records show no indication that Towery served in Iraq or Afghanistan and did not receive Purple Heart medals.
When Chirico asked Towery whether he served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Towery responded, "what do you want me to tell you?"
When Chirico questioned Towery about the Purple Heart medal hanging on a wall in his home, Towery said, "I have no further comment."
Towery's fellow veterans said his claims are an insult to veterans who did serve in combat and particularly the thousands who were injured and killed.
"It's offensive to all of us - everybody that did deploy with 2nd Tanks, everybody that does have PTSD, everybody that does have a real Purple Heart. He spits in our face," said McKinney.
To read more about the movement to expose cases of Stolen Valor, click here.
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