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Fake Military Hero Gets Jail, Big Fine

A Marine noncommissioned officer who faked being a decorated wounded war hero was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in the brig and fined $25,000.

Sgt. David Budwah never suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan or from seeing dead bodies piled up on the beaches of Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, as he had told people. He never deployed to those places.

The war injuries from which Budwah pretended to suffer grew with each witness the prosecution called during his general court-martial at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Budwah, 34, pleaded guilty to five charges, including making false statements, wearing medals or ribbons he did not earn, bluffing his way into 13 sporting events and concerts meant for wounded service members, and wrongful appropriation of property.

A military judge sentenced to him five years' confinement, but a pretrial agreement will limit his brig time to no more than one and a half years. And in addition to the hefty fine, Budwah will receive a dishonorable discharge and reduction in rank to E-1.

Budwah spent six years in Okinawa, Japan, his first duty assignment, and then moved to Headquarters Company, Headquarters and Services Battalion, at Quantico in 2006. There, he worked at the Post Exchange for Marine Corps Community Services.

Around May 2008, he told at least one officer that he was suffering from stomach cancer. At the time, he was receiving outpatient treatment for PTSD at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Because Budwah had appointments nearly every day, he was transferred around July 2008 to Wounded Warrior Battalion-East in Bethesda. He stayed there until November 2008, when allegations against him first surfaced.

He then was transferred back to Quantico as the investigation unfolded.

Budwah told the court he was sorry for his actions and that he never meant to cause anyone harm. He said he wanted to remain at the hospital, where he felt part of a larger community, until he could be medically discharged from the Corps.

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