A decorated Davenport Vietnam veteran is not as decorated as he has claimed, according to federal officials, and he now is facing a charge related to Stolen Valor.
One year ago, Bob Brooks told the Quad-City Times that his war record has been questioned for decades, even by his fellow veterans in Vietnam Veterans Quad-Cities Chapter 299. Although he long has been an active member of the chapter, Brooks was asked last year to resign from the group's Honor Guard and to step down from his role as a delegate to the national convention of Vietnam Veterans.
Brooks did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In a recent letter to members of Chapter 299, president Bill Albracht wrote, "This all came about after the conclusion of an ongoing investigation in reference to Brooks claiming numerous valor awards and military decorations that he never earned nor received. Although he did serve with distinction in Vietnam, he was never awarded the claimed 3 Silver Stars, 5 Purple Hearts."
Albracht and 299 Vice President Ray Hamilton, who both are retired federal agents, said they questioned Brooks, and he admitted to taking part in the alteration of certain records. He is not being charged with altering records, however.
The single misdemeanor accuses the 70-year-old of buying or attempting to buy congressional military decorations and medals without the proper authorization. The prosecutor in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa specifically names the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Combat Infantryman Badge in the complaint.
Brooks previously has claimed to have earned three Silver Stars and five Purple Hearts, along with many other awards.
In an interview in June, he categorized the confusion over his record as honest mistakes, saying the Army long ago notified him of the awards, and he simply presumed the information was correct. Following additional inquiries to the Army and Navy by a Times reporter, a military investigation of Brooks' service record commenced. Results indicated Brooks earned no Silver Stars, nor was he awarded any Purple Hearts.
His DD214, which is the Department of Defense document that records all veterans' military service, has since been corrected, according to a Navy spokeswoman.
Prior to the in-depth military investigation, some record-keeping officials stood behind Brooks' claims.
Despite the lack of citations and general orders for the Silver Stars, an expert archive technician with the National Personnel Records Center, Nick Harris, offered assurances last year, saying, "He definitely has two Silver Stars. I'll tell you what: This guy's a war hero. I've been here a long time, and I've never seen anyone with this many medals."
To Albracht, who has proof of the three Silver Stars he earned in Vietnam, the confusion surrounding Brooks' record was intentional.
"I'm satisfied now, but I'm more sad than satisfied," he said Tuesday. "We gave Bob several opportunities to come clean. It's a sad day for the Brooks family and a sad day for all Vietnam veterans."
As of June, Brooks continued to maintain he had nothing to do with the errors in his documentation.
"I did not falsify my DD214," he said. "I've never had control of my 214. I'm going on what I was told I was awarded."
Rachel Scherle, public information officer with the U.S. Attorneys Office, Southern District of Iowa, said Brooks is expected to enter into a plea agreement in federal court next week. Her research of cases over the past five years showed no other cases of Stolen Valor in the Southern District of Iowa.
"We would consider this a Stolen Valor case," she said.
Some charges of fraud under the Stolen Valor Act have been struck down. Although other veterans have made claims of military heroics that were exaggerated or untrue, courts have ruled they are protected by free speech. Brooks' misstep, according to the charge, was that he bought some of the awards he falsely claimed to have earned.