A former Marine who received national attention earlier this week when he stood guard in his uniform outside a California elementary school has apologized for any confusion after initial news reports about his military service proved to be inaccurate and exaggerated.
On Wednesday, Craig Pusley, 25, appeared outside Hughson Elementary School in Modesto wearing a desert camouflage uniform. He said the gesture was an attempt to make local school children feel safe after last Friday’s tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Local media outlets jumped on the story and reported that Pusley had left the Marines with the rank of sergeant after having served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. They also said he was 28.
However, after following up on the story, the Navy Times
reported that Pusley apparently wasn’t “always faithful” in describing his military service. Though Pusley graduated from basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, also known as "boot camp," he was never deployed to a conflict overseas, according to a Marine official.
Pusley left the Marines at the rank of lance corporal, two grades below sergeant, and served less than a year in uniform, the official said. He departed during training at a military occupational specialty school.
Responding to the official correction of his record, Pusley blamed a reporter from the Modesto Bee newspaper for the inaccuracies.
"There’s a lot of fabrication to this story that didn’t come out of my mouth. All I know is that I talked to a Modesto Bee lady, and everything went crazy,” Pusley told the Navy Times. “My intention was for the kids. I don’t understand why everyone has to find a negative in every situation."
The Modesto Bee disputed Pusley's claim on Thursday, saying its story was accurately reported.
During basic training, Pusley cracked his femur but still managed to graduate after the injury healed. While at his occupational specialty school, he took an unauthorized absence to attend a court hearing involving his ex-wife, for which he said he thought he had permission. As a result, he was separated from the Marines.
On Thursday, Pusley returned to the Modesto elementary school to again stand guard, this time wearing a civilian suit.
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