Accused Phony War Hero in Court Today in Texas

By Vic Walter

May 31, 2007 11:15am

The way he told it, David McClanahan, of Fort Worth, Texas, had been wounded in combat three times in Iraq, awarded three Silver Stars and even nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Today, McClanahan, a nursing student at West Texas A&M, appeared in federal court in Amarillo, Texas, on charges he made up his hero’s tale. McClanahan did not enter a plea and was released on bond after being advised of the charges against him.  The arraignment is now scheduled for June 13. His lawyer, Brooks Barfield, says McClanahan will enter a plea of not guilty. A federal grand jury indicted McClanahan last week under the newly passed Stolen Valor Act, which makes any misrepresentation of military service awards a federal crime, punishable with up to a year in prison. "This is quite an egregious offense that he held himself out as a war hero," Assistant United States Attorney Christy Drake told the Blotter on ABCNews.com. Photos: Medals of Dishonor The grand jury indictment grew out of the work of amateur Web sleuths Chuck and Mary Schantag, who run the Web site POWNetwork.org. They were asked by a Texas veterans group to do a service record check on McClanahan before he was named guest speaker at the group’s yearly banquet. According to Jack Barnes, who heads up America Supports You in Amarillo, Texas, McClanahan told him he had been awarded three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, the Legion of Merit and a nomination for the Congressional Medal of Honor for combat bravery in Iraq. "We just embraced this young man. His story was so real," recalled Barnes. But the Web site sleuths, the Schantags, found McClanahan had served two years in the Navy and four years in the Army, from which he was discharged as a private with no medals of valor. "His claims were too good to be true and turned out to be 100 percent false," said Mary Schantag. "Instead of his record being filled with heroism, there was no record of any of the accomplishments he had claimed." She quickly passed along the findings to the FBI. "We were shocked" by the Schantags’ discovery, said Barnes. "We can’t believe the young man would present himself as a war hero to our group when our nation is at war and we have men and women making the ultimate sacrifice for our country," Barnes, himself a Navy veteran, told ABCNews.com. "He’s gotten himself in a hell of a mess, and I’m disappointed by it," said Dan Adams, president and CEO of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch of Amarillo, Texas, where McClanahan attended.

Just last year, McClanahan was awarded a college scholarship worth $3,500 a semester by Cal Farley’s, which is a home and school for troubled youth.

"He did pad himself as a war hero here and appeared before the scholarship committee in uniform and wearing medals," Adams told ABCNews.com.  He added that McClanahan also showed off a letter he claimed was signed by President Bush, nominating McClanahan for the Congressional Medal of Honor. In its indictment, the federal grand jury charged Richard "David" McClanahan with two misdemeanor counts of knowingly and intentionally falsely representing himself as having been awarded decorations or medals authorized by Congress, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. The grand jury also charged McClanahan with making a false financial statement in connection with the indictment, a felony. This post has been updated. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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