A prominent hunter of “stolen valor” fraudsters has released two pages of Nathan Phillips’ Marine Corps personnel record that show he stayed in the United States during the Vietnam War and went AWOL three times.
Mr. Phillips, 63, an activist whose followers are called “decolonizing warriors” and want an end to borders, has wrapped his career in references to being a Vietnam veteran for his 2½-year military stint in the 1970s. At one point, he said he served “in theater.”
Don Shipley is a retired Navy SEAL who specializes in exposing fake war veterans or veterans who greatly exaggerate their service. He told The Washington Times he acquired the documents via a Freedom of Information Request on Tuesday from the U.S. National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The center has remained open during the partial government shutdown.
Mr. Phillips’ military history arose as an issue after he confronted Covington Catholic High School students from Park Hill, Kentucky, some wearing President Trump-supporting “Make America Great Again” caps, at the Lincoln Memorial. There for the pro-life march, the students were feeling the sting of a constant barrage of insults from a fringe group called Black Hebrew Israelites, which has been deemed a hate group by left and right organizations.
Videos show Mr. Phillips approaching the students as he pounds a drum. There, he and student Nick Sandmann stood face to face in a now-iconic scene. The videos don’t show the kids blocking him, as he contended in press interviews, or shouting “build the wall.”
Liberal activists immediately made unsubstantiated charges that the students started the confrontation. On Twitter, they urged violence against the students and the school. The liberal media instantly awarded Mr. Phillips hero status as a Vietnam War veteran.
DOCUMENT: Nathan Phillips' service record
Rep. Deb Haaland, New Mexico Democrat and a Native American, issued a tweet that convicted the students of “blatant hate.”
“This Veteran put his life on the line for our country,” Ms. Haaland wrote. “The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking.”
Over the years, Mr. Phillips has made numerous statements that imply he was in Vietnam as a Marine “Recon Ranger,” according to news media reports.
He attends an annual ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to honor fallen native Americans.
Indian Country Today, which is devoted to “digital indigenous news,” reported on the 2008 event: “Phillips also described coming back to the U.S. as a veteran of the Vietnam era. ‘People called me a baby killer and a hippie girl spit on me.’”
The Daily Caller reported on a video in which he said, “I’m a Vietnam vet. I served in Marine Corps ‘72 to ‘76. I got discharged May 5, 1976. I got honorable discharge and one of the boxes shows peacetime or, what my box says is that I was in ‘theater,’ ” he said. “I don’t talk much about my Vietnam times.”
“In theater” could mean Vietnam or in the area, such as on a warship. He was never stationed in theater.
The Washington Examiner reported he has a “violent past.”
“In his own teenage years and early 20s, Phillips … was charged with escaping from prison, assault, and several alcohol-related crimes, according to local news reports at the time from his hometown of Lincoln, Neb.,” the Examiner reported.
Mr. Shipley’s acquired personnel records show two names: Nathaniel Richard Stanard and his name at birth, Nathaniel Phillips.
The draft was in place when Mr. Phillips entered the Marines, apparently as a reservist, on May 20, 1972. (The draft ended in January 1973.) After training, he left active duty six months later on Nov. 3, 1972.
Marines view all troops as infantrymen. He likely attended boot camp and then infantry training before being deactivated.
He returned to active duty on Aug 12, 1974, and served nearly two years until May 5, 1976.
Either one of his two stints qualified him a “Vietnam-era” veteran. The U.S. declared an end to that designation for service members who joined after April 30, 1975.
The personnel documents show that Mr. Phillips was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California. He was deemed AWOL, or unauthorized absence, three times.
His job is listed as “util RefrigMan,” which indicates he was a refrigeration mechanic.
He entered service as a private and was discharged as a private.
The documents don’t state the type of discharge. That designation would be found on Form DD-214.
Mr. Shipley said that to acquire a DD-214 a researcher needs the subject to provide the form or authorize its release. Mr. Phillips has stated he was honorably discharged.
Mr. Shipley served 24 years, retiring as a SEAL senior chief petty officer in 2003.
He runs a website, Extreme SEAL Adventures, which features videos and articles about his storied unit. One link is “Navy SEAL Verification,” with deeper links to “scourge of SEAL imposters” and “fake DD-214 discharge papers.” One page lists 100 fake SEAL resumes he has investigated and exposed.
“I receive many requests to verify if a Navy SEAL resume is fake and the vast majority turn out fraudulent,” he said. “Writing the words ‘Navy SEAL’ on a resume opens many doors for imposters seeking employment. The good news is the revised Stolen Valor Act specifically targets those fakes that seek a monetary gain from their false claims. Claiming to be a SEAL on a resume when that person is not is a violation of the Stolen Valor Act.”
The 2013 law, passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, makes it a crime to misrepresent one’s military service to gain benefits or employment.
Mr. Shipley told The Times that he and his wife were watching the news on Mr. Phillips and his Vietnam claims.
“I know it sounded very funny, the Vietnam thing, and I leaned over to my wife and I go, ‘How many guys are pulling his records right now?’ ” he said.
Mr. Phillips is affiliated with the Native Youth Alliance in Michigan. Its Facebook page contains a photo album in which he is prominently featured. One photo is of a medallion that says “Vietnam War Veteran.”
Another photo of members at the United Nations is captioned, “The newest generation of Decolonizing Warriors fighting with the strength and by guidance of their ancestors and energized with the light and love of Mother Earth … For the end to borders and the institutionalized recognition of the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples over their lands and bodies.”
Email messages to the group were not returned. Its voicemail was full.