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Marine pleads guilty in hero hoax

A Marine Corps sergeant pleads guilty to faking post-traumatic stress disorder and pretending to be an injured hero to get in free to rock concerts and sporting events.
Hero Hoax
Marine Sgt. David Budwah, shown in a break from his court-martial hearing in Quantico, Va. on Wednesday, pleaded guilty to a variety of charges relating to faking war injuries.Steve Helber / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Marine Corps sergeant pleaded guilty Wednesday to faking post-traumatic stress disorder and pretending to be an injured hero to get in free to rock concerts and professional sporting events.

Sgt. David Budwah pleaded guilty to nine charges, including making false statements, malingering and misconduct at a court-martial hearing on the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.

Some of the charges may be condensed at his sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon. Budwah faces up to 8 1/2 years in prison, a reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.

'Never deployed'
Budwah acknowledged he was never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, as he claimed. He said he lied about having helped with the 2004 tsunami relief effort and didn't earn eight medals and ribbons he wore on his uniform.

"The truth of it is, I was never deployed and I was never injured," Budwah told Navy Capt. Bruce W. MacKenzie, chief judge of the Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary. "Everything that I said was false."

Budwah, 34, of Springhill, La., admitted to bluffing his way into 13 events last year, including banquets, rock concerts, a Washington Redskins football game and a Washington Nationals baseball game.

He also admitted obtaining under false pretenses a laptop computer and personal digital assistant from Soldiers' Angels, an organization that helps wounded service members.

Lied at Legion camp
Budwah acknowledged he lied when he told young boys at an American Legion camp in western Maryland in July 2008 that he was wounded in Afghanistan when he dove on a homemade grenade to shield a buddy from the blast.

Instead, Budwah was with a radio communications unit in Okinawa, Japan, from early 2000 to early 2006, and then at Quantico, where he worked as a store clerk.

He said he was legitimately sent to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in June 2008 for outpatient treatment for a stomach ailment. Once there, he claimed PTSD in hopes of leaving service before his scheduled September 2009 discharge date. He became an inpatient and began bluffing his way into wounded-warrior events, he said.