A New York man who served in the army for only eight years as a driver far from any battle zone is accused of taking on the fraudulent mantle of a 25-year veteran Green Beret with a chest full of medals. The deception was designed to help him worm his way into New York society events, a report reveals.
Brooklyn Army veteran Papotia Reginald Wright seemed to have a very impressive pedigree in the U.S. armed forces. He claimed to have a Purple Heart, was a 25-year army vet, and even said he became a member of the elite Green Berets. The resume gave him access to numerous events in the Big Apple, including events with the New York Giants, the New York Post reported.
Wright even helped start a veteran’s group that served veterans and their families.
But it has now been alleged that he lied about his army career. According to reports, Wright never rose above the rank of “specialist,” served only eight years (1982 to 1990) instead of 25, and never served in any battle zone to earn a Purple Heart. Indeed, nearly all the medal he has worn at numerous events were bought second hand and were not earned in service.
Indeed, instead of serving in any battle zone, Wright served as a driver in very safe places such as Alaska, Georgia, Texas, and a short stint in Egypt according to documents provided by the government.
Wright did help his fellow vets by starting the 8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard, a group that offers an honor guard at funerals for service members and veterans. As part of this group, Wright became an active and well-liked member of the New York veteran community.
Photos show Mr. Wright at a New York Giants game wearing a full Green Beret uniform.
But, now Wright is being investigated for possible violations of the Stolen Valor Act.
The Stolen Valor Act maintains that any person who rewrites “provisions relating to fraudulent claims about military service were subject to a fine, imprisonment up to a year or both.”
The veterans group Wright started said that they began looking into Wright’s possible violations when people alerted them to the incongruities in Wright’s story.
“It bothers us. Stolen valor is an epidemic. We cannot keep up with the cases sent to us,” a member of the veteran’s group told the paper. “Wearing fake stuff — wearing a Ranger tab, Special Forces tab, those things are hard to earn. Wearing a Purple Heart…that stuff’s unforgivable there.”
Army veteran Jeff Johnson, who is a member of Wright’s veteran group, said he felt like he was “played for a f***ing fool” after the questions about Wright were made public. Johnson also noted that Wright had told people he was “living off half a kidney,” too.
“He’s an amazing storyteller because he will get into details,” Johnson confessed.
Members of Wright’s group said that they are suspending their activities while they investigate the allegations about his service.
There is no word if Wright will face any legal consequences for his alleged ruse.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston