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Ex-Marine Who Guarded School Lied About Record

Hughson, Calif. — The Marine Corps veteran who achieved national fame this week for guarding Hughson Elementary School had a far less distinguished service career than he has claimed in public, records obtained yesterday show.

Hughson Unified Superintendent Brian Beck said he asked Craig D. Pusley to leave the school grounds about 10 a.m. yesterday after checking with regional Marine authorities on Pusley’s service. He said Pusley did not argue and simply left.

Beck stressed that Pusley stayed outside the school, except for checking in at the office. “He certainly seemed legit,” Beck said. “It’s just so disheartening.”

Records provided by the Marine Corps show that Pusley served only nine months before being discharged as a private first class in April 2008. The personnel records further indicate that he never served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else overseas.

The records contradict Pusley’s claims Wednesday to The Modesto Bee and other media that he is a 28-year-old sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, in Baghdad and Ramadi, and one tour in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

Pusley told The Army Times yesterday that he feels “horrible about this.”

“I cannot emphasize how sorry I am that all of this has happened,” he told the military newspaper. “These were not my intentions. This was never supposed to happen.”

He also told the Times he is 25, that he borrowed the sergeant’s uniform and that he dreamed of being a Marine as a youngster. He lives in this small Central California town with his wife and 3-year-old son; she is expecting their second child in two weeks.

Pusley did not return multiple messages from The Bee left yesterday, but did tell other media that he had been misquoted.

“The Modesto Bee correctly quoted what Mr. Pusley told reporter Nan Austin in a Wednesday interview. We stand by the story,” said Editor Joe Kieta.

Marine Corps Capt. Kendra N. Motz said yesterday that “the record speaks for itself.”

Motz declined to say whether Pusley potentially faces legal proceedings for his exaggerated service claims.

False or exaggerated military claims, though, are not uncommon, and as a general rule, officials appear to primarily focus on those who seek to profit or exploit others.

Beck said it was the lies-not Pusley’s lack of long and illustrious service-that forced him to reassess the Hughson father’s volunteer vigil. “Maybe he just got caught up in it all,” Beck said.