HUGHSON (CBS13) – The feel-good story of a former U.S. Marine standing guard outside a local elementary school doesn’t feel so good the day after.
It turns out Craig Pusley isn’t in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, he didn’t serve overseas as he told CBS13 on Wednesday and he was discharged after less than a year with the second-lowest ranking in the Marines, private first class (E-2).
Pusley, who stood guard in uniform but unarmed outside Hughson Elementary School on Wednesday, was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego from July 2007 until April 2008, according to the Marines’ public affairs office. He was never deployed.
“I’m in shock, that’s very bad,” said one mother. “This isn’t something to be playing around with; this is serious and it’s scary.”
Pusley said Wednesday he was a sergeant in the Reserve after being on active duty in Afghanistan. He also claimed to be in the service for nearly 10 years, as well as serving two tours in Iraq.
Some parents hope school administrators will think twice before letting a man in uniform on campus.
“Check, just to make sure they are who they say they are, because anybody can do it, take advantage and something mad could happen,” the mother said.
Pusley was back in front of the school on Thursday but in a coat and tie. He said Wednesday he was prompted to take action after the tragic school shooting last week in Newtown, Conn. He left mid-morning, however, as questions surfaced about his past.
“I would take a bullet for any one of these kids whether I know them or not,” he told CBS 13 Wednesday. “If a gunman comes into this school, I’m not gonna kill him. I’m gonna drag him out of here. I’m gonna let the law take care of him.”
The school’s principal, Laura Fong, wouldn’t comment on Thursday because she said she didn’t know all the facts regarding the controversy. 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.
But once administrators learned he was lying about his service record, Pusley was kicked off campus.
CBS13 tried reaching out to him, but was unsuccessful.
WSMV-TV Nashvillle reported that another former Marine, Staff Sgt. Jordan Pritchard, also stood guard in front of Gower Elementary in Nashville, Tenn. On Wednesday. Pritchard, who has two children at the school, said he wanted to provide extra security to students and teachers.
Marines spokesman Capt. Gregory A. Wolf said the Marine Corps contacted Pritchard, requesting that he stop wearing his uniform outside the school. Wolf said a Marine Corps order prohibits former Marines from wearing their uniform in public, except for military funerals, memorial services, weddings, inaugurals, and parades on national or state holidays.
At no point was the former Marine asked to stop standing in protection of his son’s school, Capt. Wolf said, and the Marine Corps is not investigating Pritchard or Pusley.