Why I sat on the Randy Voepel / Military fraud accusations

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Master Chief Petty Officer Terence B. Hoey, USN (Ret), a security professional based in New York City, accused Assemblyman Randy Voepel of “stolen valor” three weeks ago at a press conference in front of the USS Midway.

Stolen Valor is a broad term military veterans use to accuse people of misrepresenting their military records. The punishment for misrepresenting military awards and qualifications, as an elected official in California, requires the guilty party to immediately forfeit his/her office (AB 153, sponsored by Marine veteran/Assemblyman Rocky Chavez and voted for by Navy veteran, Assemblyman Voepel).

I was made aware of this nine weeks ago by Voepel’s Republican challenger, retired Navy SEAL and former Republican-endorsed challenger to Congresswoman Susan Davis, Larry Wilske. I held back on reporting this development for two reasons:

1- An accusation of Stolen Valor against a Vietnam veteran and sitting Assemblyman is serious. I didn’t feel we had independent verification of the accusation (at that point).
2- I supported and volunteered for Wilske’s 2014 Congressional campaign and supported Leo Hamel against Voepel in 2016. I did not want to publish what would appear to be a “political hit piece.”

Mr. Hoey’s accusation is news now. His LinkedIn post is five weeks old.

Mr. Hoey outlines three potential violations of  AB 153:

1- Hoey claims that Voepel publicly stated he was wounded in action, which would make him eligible to be awarded a Purple Heart. This accusation was allegedly made by a staffer in Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office. I have not interviewed that staffer yet so there is no evidence to support that accusation.

2- Hoey published pictures from Voepel’s Facebook page and Assembly website that show him wearing the US Navy “Small Craft Insignia”. This implies that Voepel commanded (or earned a qualification to command ) a small craft (aka Swift Boat or Riverine Boat). Neither in the military separation paperwork, which Hoey provides in his original LinkedIn article, nor in the documentation Voepel’s office furnished to the media, is there proof that Voepel earned that qualification. I want to ask Voepel why he wears that insignia. If he is not authorized to wear that, and continues to make claims that he served in the brownwater Navy, he’s violating AB 153.

3- Hoey published pictures of Voepel wearing a US Naval Services Combat Action Ribbon (worn upside down in the picture of his Oath ceremony). In the military separation paperwork which Hoey provides in his article, there is no proof that Voepel earned that award. In the documentation Voepel’s office furnished to the media, the award appears to be there. Hoey asserted that the documentation, which Voepel’s office furnished to the media, has been “altered.”   Voepel’s campaign manager, Mason Herron, offered to let me see Voepel’s original DD-214N form on the evening of April 9, 2018. I contacted him on April 10, 2018, to schedule a meeting to see the form and Herron hasn’t responded.

Does this matter?

Maybe. Ken Stone, over at Times of San Diego, published videos which show that Voepel tells some tall tales. Voepel served during the Vietnam conflict on two Navy destroyers, one of which took inbound fire. Had Voepel contained his war stories to the scope of his service, this wouldn’t be an issue.

But Hoey says that Voepel  is wearing a costume. “He can dress up in an aftermarket TF-117 ball cap, which he might have purchased on eBay, and wear someone else’s Small Craft Insignia pin but they won’t make him a brownwater sailor. Kids dress like Superman for Halloween, but we don’t throw them off the balcony because we know they can’t really fly. Voepel is playing make believe, like all Valor Thieves do.”

Voepel is making stuff up and his campaign staff is telling the media that Voepel’s claims are accurate. The media are accepting the spin without seeing the source documentation. He is running out the clock and banking that, if he wins the June Primary, nobody will care anymore.

Tomorrow, I am going to dissect each of Hoey’s three accusations and tell you what I think the local mainstream media are missing.

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