An Army veteran who lied about receiving the Purple Heart and Silver Star medals received the maximum prison sentence of 12 months on Tuesday, according to the Justice Department.
Gregg Ramsdell, 61, of Columbus, Georgia, also received three years of supervised release and he was ordered by the court to repay $76,000 to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ramsdell pleaded guilty in December to lying about serving in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2009. He also admitted to falsely claiming to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder when he applied for disability payments through the VA in 2014, according to court records.
Ramsdell said he saw “men, women and children being executed. Women holding babies while detonating themselves. IED explosions causing severe bodily injuries and death. Retrieving body parts and bagging them. Having blood and body excrements being blown onto my uniform.”
Those experiences made him “unable to live a normal life,” he said.
But Ramsdell was not in Afghanistan during the years he claimed, according to VA and FBI investigators. His claims were in violation of the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime for people to pass themselves off as war heroes “in order to claim money, employment, property or other tangible benefits,” the Justice Department said.
“Anyone who lies about serving our country to illegally take tax payer money from federal programs that help deserving veterans must be held accountable to the full extent of our laws,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI’s Atlanta office, in a statement.
Ramsdell did serve in various Army components, including the National Guard and the Reserve, beginning in 1981. He was honorably discharged in 2014.
The VA gave Ramsdell PTSD benefits retroactive to his 2014 discharge date totaling $76,000. He also received a civilian job at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2017.
Ramsdell received the Fort Benning job offer in part because his resume listed that he was both a Silver Star and Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster recipient, the court records stated. But he never received those awards, the documents added.
The Silver Star medal is the third-highest military award for valor in combat. And the Purple Heart medal is awarded to service members who are wounded or killed in battle.
“The sentence imposed on Ramsdell sends a clear message that anyone who falsely claims to have received our nation’s most valorous medals earned through combat and service will be held accountable,” said David Spilker, special agent in charge at the VA Office of Inspector General, in a prepared statement.
Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.