Former Marine voluntarily guards California school
A Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan took up self-imposed duty in front of a central California elementary school in the wake of the Connecticut shooting. (AP Photo)
Web Producer: Lucy Valencia
HUGHSON, Calif. (AP) — A former Marine applauded for voluntarily guarding a central California elementary school apparently misrepresented his service history, U.S. Marine Corps officials said Thursday.
Craig Pusley showed up for a second day of guard duty Thursday at Hughson Elementary School just southeast of Modesto, this time in civilian clothes after wearing military fatigues the day before. But he departed mid-morning as questions arose about his military background.
On Wednesday, Pusley, 25, told The Modesto Bee he was a sergeant in the Marine Reserve and had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Marines spokesman Captain Gregory A. Wolf told The Associated Press on Thursday that Pusley never served overseas and was discharged in 2008 as a private after serving less than a year at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. He also is not a reservist.
Wolf said a Marine Corps order prohibits former Marines from wearing their uniform in public, except for military funerals, memorial services, weddings, inaugurals, and parades on national or state holidays.
Pusley did not respond to calls for comment from The Associated Press.
The school's principal Laura Fong wouldn't comment on Thursday because she said she didn't know all the facts regarding the controversy. But she said it was a "very heartwarming thing" when the former Marine showed up Wednesday and his presence made her and the staff feel safer.
Pusley told the Bee that he had responded to a call on Facebook for veterans to help protect schools in the wake of the mass shooting in Connecticut last week.
A Facebook group called Veterans on Watch, created this month, has called for stationing an armed Marine or any other veteran in every school to prevent shootings.
The group is circulating a White House petition that calls for the employment of competent veterans as armed security guards in America's schools, and 2,239 people have signed it so far.
"A lot of us after the Sandy Hook tragedy wondered what we could do. Looking around the web, all the veterans had the same idea, to protect the kids," said Chad Walker, a former combat medic in the Army and one of the group's founders. "It would act as a deterrent to have a well-trained first responder on hand to neutralize the situation as soon as possible."
WSMV-TV Nashvillle reported that another former Marine, Staff Sgt. Jordan Pritchard, also stood guard in front of Gower Elementary in Nashville, Tenn. On Wednesday. Pritchard, who has two children at the school, said he wanted to provide extra security to students and teachers.
Capt. Wolf said the Marine Corps contacted Sgt. Pritchard, requesting that he stop wearing his uniform outside the school.
At no point was the former Marine asked to stop standing in protection of his son's school, Capt. Wolf said, and the Marine Corps is not investigating Pritchard or Pusley.
According to the Official Military Personnel File, Pritchard served from 2003 to 2011, as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense specialist. He is a Staff Sergeant and was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan.
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