A Texas Marine has pled guilty to stealing the valor of a deceased Marine who he served in combat with in Afghanistan.
Since 2004, Brandon Blackstone has made a living off a claim that he suffered brain, leg, and ankle injuries from an IED that exploded during his tour of duty. He traveled across the country talking about his experience and received numerous disability benefits, a Purple Heart, and a free home from a charitable veterans organization.
The story is real, it just isn’t about Brandon Blackstone.
While serving in Afghanistan, Blackstone’s fellow Marine Casey Owens was in the Humvee that hit the IED, sending him 30 feet away from the blast and severing one of his legs and injuring the other. WFAA-TV reports that he also suffered from hundreds of pieces of shrapnel, but managed to survive the blast.
“Casey lived in hell for 10 years,” Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said. “He didn’t sleep. He was trapped within his own body, trapped with no legs and trapped with a brain that didn’t work properly anymore.”
Eventually, the suffering became too much for Owens, who committed suicide in 2014.
None of that kept Blackstone from stealing the story as his own. And he would have continued to get away with it, had it not been for a fellow Marine who Blackstone happened to show the picture to. The Marine had happened to witness the attack and knew that Blackstone was in the Humvee behind the one Owens was in.
Now, the FBI has investigated the false claim and charged Blackstone with multiple felony counts, all of which Blackstone has pled guilty to. He now faces up to 21 years in prison.
Veteran groups on Twitter are responding in force to make sure this sort of thing stops happening: