The Army has denied the appeal of a former Green Beret major, pardoned for an alleged murder in Afghanistan by President Donald Trump, who has sought the restoration of his Silver Star Medal and Special Forces tab.
USA Today first reported the rejection of former Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn’s appeal, which the Army reached last June but did not announce, based on decision documents obtained by the news organization.
Golsteyn faced murder charges in the 2010 death of an alleged Afghan bombmaker until Trump pardoned him in late 2019. Since his pardon, the major has sought to have the tab and medal returned.
Golsteyn admitted during a job interview with the CIA shortly after his 2010 Afghanistan deployment that he had killed the bombmaker. That information was reported to Army investigators who later charged him with murder.
In November 2019, shortly after the pardon, Lt. Col. Emanuel L. Ortiz, an Army Headquarters spokesman, told Army Times, “The Army is conducting a review to determine the administrative actions required to fully implement the presidential orders.”
Although the Army reached the decision not to restore the SF tab or the Silver Star to Golsteyn in June, it did not announce the decision in the final months of Trump’s presidency, USA Today reported.
“Presidential pardon is a sign of forgiveness and ‘does not indicate innocence,’” the board wrote in its rejection letter.
At the time of the review, officials told Army Times that the judicial and administrative processes were separate, and it was likely that Golsteyn would not see his tab or medal returned.
But his attorney, Philip Stackhouse, told Army Times then that his client would seek the restoration of his awards.
“We are asking for reinstatement of everything that was taken from him because that was the president’s intent: to put him back in the position he was prior to the allegations,” Stackhouse said.
In a statement provided to Army Times on March 18, Stackhouse said:
“It’s repugnant that that Army continues to denigrate Matt’s heroism on the battlefield. The false allegations are alleged to have happened well after the Valorous actions on the battle field and the Army should be ashamed to keep the false narrative alive at this point. It’s an embarrassment and disloyal. Matt’s Valorous conduct occurred when he was attached to a US Marine Regiment in Marjah. All Marines supported him, from the Commanding General to the private in the ranks - that’s loyalty. He deserves the Distinguished Service Cross, he deserves his Special Forces Tab reinstated.”
The Silver Star Golsteyn was awarded had been recommended for an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross, but that was put on hold when the criminal charge was lodged.
In a statement that Golsteyn provided to Army Times through his lawyer on March 18, he said the Army’s decision was an end-run around the president and was counter to the commander in chief’s intent.
“I remain in utter disbelief that in November 2019, the Commander in Chief, in the presence of the Vice President and White House Counsel, personally told me that my record would be corrected - that “all records would be abandoned” and that “everything is going to be expunged” and I would be “allowed everything, [I am] just as though this never happened” - yet the Army refused action on what the President and Commander in Chief reinstated. Clearly, we have seen Military Departments obey the direction of the Commander in Chief in other cases and, inexplicably, the Army defied the President. It shouldn’t be a surprise the findings of the Army Board were released in November 2020 and not mailed to me for 2 more months, after President Trump left office, so my case could languish in the quagmire of Presidential transition. I remain thankful to President Trump looking into my situation, the only question remaining, will President Biden give comity to the orders of President Trump.”
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.