Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Military service records show a West Jordan man recognized as recently as last month as one of Utah's surviving Vietnam prisoners of war is not the highly decorated Vietnam POW he has claimed to be.
Veterans groups have called out West Jordan resident David Jennings Groves on his claim he volunteered to serve with the Army's 5th Special Forces Group, was wounded in an ambush and captured, and was starved and tortured for six months until he escaped into the jungle and hid for two weeks.
Now, Terry Schow, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans affairs — and a veteran of the same 5th Special Forces Group with service in Vietnam — is openly challenging Groves' claim after obtained a copy of Groves' service record, which shows Groves was drafted and served two years as an automotive repairman at Fort Bliss Texas from December 1962 to December 1964, and served in the Army National Guard for two more years.
According to the record, Groves never served in Vietnam.
Visual clues from recent photographs of Groves wearing an Army uniform also side with the service record. "I see a Silver Star, three awards for the Silver Star," Schow said, looking at a photograph of Groves. "Each of those clusters is a second and third award of the Silver Star. I see the Bronze Star, and that actually connotes four awards of the Bronze Star."
But the service record shows none of those awards, and some medals are not properly arranged on the uniform.
"There's a half dozen, or six or eight things that are wrong, based on the documents provided by the National Personnel Records Center."
Groves declined a request for an interview. Last week in a written statement he called the challenges to his POW status as "false and defamatory."
Schow said he has contacted Special Forces groups. "I've received no confirmation from anybody in the S.F. that they have any record that he served there," Schow said.
A looming question is whether Groves has violated the Stolen Valor act, which criminalizes lying about heroism and medals earned in war.
A case before the Supreme Court is weighing whether the Stolen Valor Act violates an individual's First Amendment rights. A decision is expected next month, but Schow plans to talk to the U.S. Attorney's Office about Groves' case sooner than that.
"The fact that he listed those awards that are not documented by his military discharge document would qualify under stolen valor," Schow said.
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