HUGHSON, Calif. (AP) — A former Marine applauded for voluntarily guarding a central California elementary school apparently misrepresented his service history, U.S. Marine Corps officials said Thursday.
Craig Pusley showed up for a second day of guard duty Thursday at Hughson Elementary School, this time in civilian clothes after wearing military fatigues the day before. He was gone by midmorning, after Unified School District Superintendent Brian Beck discovered discrepancies about Pusley's military service and asked him to leave.
A day earlier, Pusley, 25, told The Modesto Bee he was a sergeant in the Marine Reserve and had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Pusley said he was unemployed and using his reservist pay to support his wife and 3-year-old child.
Capt. Gregory A. Wolf, a Marines spokesman, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Pusley never served overseas and was discharged in 2008 as a private after serving less than a year at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. He also is not a reservist.
Laura Fong, the principal at Hughson Elementary School, wouldn't comment on the controversy Thursday because she said she didn't know all the facts. But she said it was a "very heartwarming thing" when the former Marine showed up Wednesday, and his presence made her and the staff feel safer.
Before the controversy, parents in the small agricultural community 100 miles southeast of San Francisco thanked Pusley for guarding their children and bought him cups of coffee.
"In the beginning, I thought it was a good idea, because as a parent I was concerned about safety with everything going on," Amber Navarro, 26, said while picking up her first-grader at the school. "He seemed like a really nice guy."
Pusley, who did not respond to calls for comment from the AP, told the Bee he had responded to a call on Facebook for veterans to help protect schools in the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. A Facebook group called Veterans on Watch, created this month, is circulating a White House petition that calls for the employment of competent veterans as armed security guards in America's schools, and 2,239 people have signed it so far.