Veterans protest phony Marine general being allowed to volunteer at VA hospital
A veterans group is protesting a decision by the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla to allow a former Marine sergeant to act as a volunteer as part of his community service after pleading guilty to wearing a general's uniform and medals that he did not earn.
American Combat Veterans of War co-founders William Rider and Michael Sloan said the presence of David Weber at the hospital as a volunteer is disrespectful to veterans.
"Veterans, particularly combat veterans, have very strong feelings about how ribbons and rank are worn and consider his actions extremely disrespectful," the two wrote in a letter delivered this week to Lorelei Winn, director of volunteer services at La Jolla VA Medical Center. "We are very proud of those in our ranks who have earned their stripes."
Weber, 69, pleaded guilty in January in San Diego federal court to a misdemeanor violation under the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to wear unearned military ribbons or rank. He served in the Marine Corps from 1958 to 1967 and left as a staff sergeant.
In recent years, however, he had embellished his service record by bragging about being on clandestine intelligence missions and being promoted to general. His unmasking came when he attended -- wearing the rank of a two-star general -- an event last fall in Ramona celebrating the anniversary of the Marine Corps' founding.
Weber was sentenced to three years' probation and 240 hours of community service. He told the North County Times that he is a greeter at the hospital and has not told any tall tales about his military service.
"I haven't been telling anyone anything," he told the newspaper. "The only thing I do is to say good morning or good afternoon."
Weber may prove to be one of the last people charged under the Stolen Valor Act. Two courts, in separate cases, have ruled it an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
--Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: David Weber, right, wearing a major general's rank at a November event in Ramona in northern San Diego County. Credit: Ramona Sentinel