Stolen Valor: Fake Green Beret Forced To Shut Down Honor Guard Group

Pictured here, Papotia Reginald Wright's military record does not support his claims to have been in Special Forces.
Courtesy of Guardians of the Green Geret via Stars and Stripes

Papotia Reginald Wright started the 8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard more than a year ago to perform burial services for veterans. But according to investigations by multiple groups, the supposed Special Forces veteran vastly inflated his military service, including medals for valor, and his group has since shut down.

Wright claimed to be a retired command sergeant major from Special Forces and used his fraudulent claim to run a veterans service organization with no official nonprofit status in Brooklyn, N.Y., according the state Attorney General’s office. Military records seen by Stars and Stripes show he served in the Army from 1982-90 as a truck driver who never ranked higher than a specialist – a far cry from his claims of combat service.

Photographs show Wright in full dress uniform at promotional events including a New York Giants game. Most of his decorations – a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and others – are allegedly fake, according to Steve Antson from Guardians of the Green Beret, a watchdog group that works to expose people pretending to be part of Special Forces.

According to federal law under the Stolen Valor Act, it is a crime to lie about military awards for monetary or other tangible benefits.

Wright, who goes by “Reggie,” told Stars and Stripes that his rank is honorary, not an attempt to mislead.

“Because I started the unit (the Honor Guard), I was the top NCO there,” he said. Wright has said he never claimed to be in Special Forces specifically, but that he drove trucks for the 75th Ranger Regiment and 5th Special Forces Group as an attachment.

As part of the Army’s Authorized Provider Partnership Program, organizations like Wright’s can perform military honors for funerals of former military personnel or honor guard ceremonies for events. “When they couldn’t take up the slack, we were called,” Wright said of the Army.

According to its now-defunct Facebook page, the “8th Special Forces Regiment New York Honor Guard is a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) that renders final honors to Veterans with an Honorable Discharge or General Discharge with Honorable conditions.” It is based at the Park Slope Armory building on 8th Avenue in Brooklyn.

The name is an apparent reference to the 8th Special Forces Group, which conducted counterinsurgency operations and training in the backdrop of the Cold War in Latin America. The unit was disbanded in 1980.

The Guardians of the Green Beret said they have been aware of the Honor Guard for about two months, after being alerted by another watchdog organization called Guardian of Valor that Wright was exaggerating his military service to promote the Honor Guard.

Wright claimed he had been part of the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu in 1993 that led to the deaths of 18 U.S servicemembers, Antson said. Wright’s service ended in 1990, according to his personnel record.

Multiple people confirmed to Antson that Wright told the story of an enemy fighter who snuck up behind him and cut his kidney out. “He’s saying he is walking around with half a kidney,” he said. Wright never received a Purple Heart, according to his military records.

An official at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, who wasn’t permitted to talk on the record, said no one questioned Wright’s rank and credentials at the base, and he used that to gain access to government vehicles “for whatever reason.”

Jeffrey Johnson, a former Army major, joined the Honor Guard to help veterans, he said. Wright immediately asked Johnson to work promotional events with him.

The pace was frenetic, Johnson said. They attended an annual Heroes Gala event by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America where he met former Army Gen. David Petraeus and other well-known military figures. He worked with Wright at a New York Giants game and at the Nov. 10 reopening of the Times Square recruiting station after its renovation.

“I got caught up so quickly in the events,” he said, eventually leaving the group because of the time commitment it required.

He said he was “crushed” by the revelations about Wright’s inflated service record and self-promotion.

“I believed in the organization. It was a feeling of pride to put on the uniform again since I was always proud of my military service,” he said. “It sunk my heart.”

The Honor Guard website was taken down after accusations of fraud were made. Its Facebook page states in its last post on Nov. 29 that “information has been posted on the Internet which we were not aware of until this month of November 2017. As a result we will look into the matter, therefore we will be closing our social media until further notice.”

The post was signed by Maj. Tammy Feliciano from the group’s S-1 office, referring to personnel management sections in Army headquarters units.

The Guardians of the Green Beret claim they have been able to find no evidence that Feliciano served in the military after a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Personnel Records Center.

“She is calling herself a major. She was not active duty, she was not in the Guard, she was not in the Reserves,” Antson said. Wright says Feliciano is a civilian and the title was honorary. “She’s never been in the military and she’s never portrayed herself to be in the military.”

She could not be reached by Stars and Stripes for comment.

The 8th Special Forces New York Honor Guard is officially defunct, Wright told Stars and Stripes in December.

“If people don’t want us to bury veterans, that’s a shame. That is what our mission was,” he said.


©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vaughan Dill/Released)

The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.

Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.

Read More Show Less

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."

"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."

"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.

We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.

Read More Show Less
Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner attends the dual interment of fellow USS Arizona survivors John D. Anderson, boatswain's mate 2nd class, and Clarendon R. Hetrick, seaman 1st class, at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Somers Steelman)

Just before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning 78 years ago, Lauren Bruner was preparing for church services and a date that would follow with a girl he'd met outside his Navy base.

The 21-year-old sailor was stationed as a fire controlman aboard the U.S. battleship USS Arizona, overseeing the vessel's .50-caliber guns.

Then alarms rang out. A Japanese plane had bombed the ship in a surprise attack.

It took only nine minutes for the Arizona to sink after the first bomb hit. Bruner was struck by gunfire while trying to flee the inferno that consumed the ship, the second-to-last man to escape the explosion that killed 1,177, including his best friend; 335 survived.

More than 70% of Bruner's body was burned. He was hospitalized for weeks.

Now, nearly eight decades after that fateful day, Bruner's ashes will be delivered to the sea that cradled his fallen comrades, stored in an urn inside the battleship's wreckage.

Read More Show Less