A Pennsylvania pastor has been forced into an embarrassing backdown after his claims that he was a Navy SEAL proved to be a lie. For five years, the Rev. Jim Moats told his congregation that he had served with the elite group in Vietnam.
But his lie was exposed when he recounted his exploits to his local paper in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. He even bought the SEALs’ gold Trident medal at a military surplus store, the Patriot-News
“I never was in a class, I never served as an actual SEAL. It was my dream . . . I don’t even know if I would have met the qualifications. I never knew what the qualifications were,” Moats now admits.
What’s more, he says the closest he got to Vietnam was serving on the USS Independence in the Mediterranean during his Navy enlistment that lasted from 1970-74.
Moats, pastor of the Christian Bible Fellowship Church in Newville now says his late father was injured in World War II, and both of his sons fought in Iraq. “They are real war heroes, something he wanted to be but never was,” the Harrisburg-based Patriot-News reported.
In the article, published Sunday, Moats said he was waterboarded as part of his SEAL training, to prepare for possible capture by the Vietcong. He now admits he got the idea from watching the Steven Seagal movie “Under Siege.”
He said he remembered being shunned in an airport as he returned in uniform from Vietnam and said he was “ecstatic” that President Barack Obama had gone to Fort Campbell, Ky., to thank the SEALs involved in taking out bin Laden. “Nobody thanked us coming home from Vietnam,” he said.
But it was all a lie, and he was quickly exposed by retired SEAL Don Shipley, who keeps a database of all people who served with the group. “We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” Shipley said.
“He has mental problems, plain and simple,” added Shipley. “His wife and friends and flock believe it, and he starts believing it himself. That is not an excuse. The pastor is very aware of what he did,” Shipley said.
Moats says he is now asking his congregation for forgiveness. The Patriot-News says it often interviews veterans about their services. “We do not regularly ask those we interview for proof of their service, believing these men and women would not lie and dishonor those who have fought bravely defending our country.
“Unfortunately, this time we were deceived, and we will discuss steps to try and ensure that it does not happen again.”
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