[UPDATE: I just wanted to clarify something that I didn't include in this post. It wasn't intentional as TSO is a great guy and friend and I want to ensure that people understand my efforts to interview SGT Poe were spurred by his This Ain't Hell blog where the story was uncovered. I wanted to get Poe reaction to the controversy. Please check TSO's post with updates. Every story that comes out about the Poe controversy is a direct result of his efforts. When I wrote this post it was simply to highlight the interview, not take credit for any "scoops" in getting the story. - CJ]
By now, you’ve no doubt heard about the country crooner Tim Poe who sang a stirring rendition of Garth Brooks’ “If Tomorrow Never Comes” on America’s Got Talent Monday night. On the show, Poe gave a stirring account on his combat experience and the reason he stutters. According to Poe, he was injured when an RPG round detonated near him, further injuring his back and causing TBI. He said was then evacuated to Germany and eventually medically retired from the military.
The problem is that many of the facts don’t seem to be lining up. On last night’s episode of You Served Radio (audio also embedded below) we had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Poe about the allegations levied against him and offered a chance to clear the air. In the end, the interview seems to have raised more questions than answers.
In the past 24 hours, I’ve received emails and tweets allegedly from members of Poe’s unit as well as family members that contradict his account of his military service. Not a single Soldier, friend, or family member has contacted me or any other military bloggers to substantiate his claims.
Shannon Conroy, who claims to be Poe’s ex-wife sent our You Served Facebook page the following message:
I can tell you as Timothy Poe’s most recent ex-wife and the one who was married to him during all of this “deployment” stuff that he is still lying about a lot of things. I just listened to your interview and it upsets me.
Earlier this morning I spoke with SGT Brianna Lauer, who was in a different platoon of Poe’s unit and knew him. She said that none of what Poe said was accurate and that he never made it any further outside the wire than Kandahar Airfield that she’s aware of. To be fair, SGT Lauer didn’t not work with Poe on a regular basis in Afghanistan, but said that everyone in the company would be aware of an RPG or grenade affecting someone in her unit. For example, when a fellow Soldier was killed in Afghanistan by an IED, the entire company knew what happened.
I’ve spoken with a few other members from Poe’s unit that all echoed SGT Lauer’s version of the story, but none of which worked directly for, with or over him. Later tonight, I will be speaking with troops that did work directly with SGT Poe and will provide those updates when they occur.
While I still reserve judgment on SGT Poe, there are a lot of bits of information that don’t seem to mesh with his story. We already acertained last night that he lied about ever receiving a Purple Heart or Bronze Star Medal. However, he also told Defenders of Freedom that he earned the Combat Infantry Badge [sic]. If Poe was a transportation SGT, he is not qualified to wear the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Non-infantry troops are awarded the Combat Action Badge instead. Poe does not claim the CAB in his interviews nor do his records reflect such.
During the interview, Poe claimed he doesn’t remember who was around him when the RPG went off. He couldn’t name anyone in his squad or platoon because he “was new to the unit.” As a career Soldier, this was a bit difficult to swallow for me. Every Soldier at least knows the names of one person in their squad. However, this part of his story isn’t ENTIRELY implausible being with a National Guard unit. It is possible that Poe came from a completely different area than the rest of the unit and did not interact with them on a regular basis. On the flip side, no unit deploys without going through intense training first as a team, squad, platoon, company, etc. Surely, the names of at least one of these troops would be easy to remember after all that.
SGT Poe stated that his records were incomplete because the Army doesn’t award the Purple Heart for traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In fact, the Army DOES award the Purple Heart for TBI and many Soldiers have been awarded it for that specific reason.
During the interview, I asked Poe if he stuttered prior to the incident in 2009 he spoke about on AGT. He stated he did not. However, in a WFAA story posted a week ago Poe is described as having “both physical and mental impediments that make it hard to transition to civilian life” as a result of another RPG attack that “actually folded me in half backwards and broke my back.” During our interview, he never mentioned this as the cause of his previous back injury. He did mention the previous injury, but not the cause.
Poe claimed that his unit wasn’t told why he was evacuated and that is why they are countering his claims. In today’s military, commanders and NCOs strive to keep Soldiers as informed as possible about the condition of their wounded and fallen troops. Information is dessiminated so that potential future injuries can be potentially avoided and lessons learned shared.
SGT Poe has offered to provide me with his medical records that support his claims and I will publish those as soon as I get them and scrub them of sensitive information. I also offered SGT Poe a chance on the show last night to come clean sooner rather than later about discrepencies, embellishments, or outright lies that may have been told in the heat of the moment that maybe he didn’t mean. He only asks that people not judge him prematurely. I will respect that for now, but will not take lightly being outright lied to when there was never any need to invent outlandish stories.
The fact is that SGT Poe DID deploy to Afghanistan. He DID serve in the National Guard for a period of time. He DOES deserve the respect that comes with raising the hand and going where the government sends him. That should be enough without creating fiction to garner sympathy or respect.