SIERRA VISTA — On Monday, James “Eddie” Weathers sent a letter to all members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 572 resigning from his position of chapter commander.
The MOPH is a Congressionally chartered United States war veterans organization for veterans who have received a Purple Heart(s) during their time of service, with chapters all across the country.
Weathers’ reason for resigning is tied to several incidents that occured between himself and another veteran at a fundraising event in front of Fry’s Food on May 23 and 24.
During the event, another veteran, who has been identified as Donald Childs by the website militaryphonys.com, which wrote on the incident, approached the MOPH table with his service dog, which was off leash. Weathers said he asked the man if he knew that the state’s leash laws applied to service dogs.
“It escalated quickly into an argument which escalated and escalated to the point to where not only myself but two other wounded veterans were being accused of falsely portraying themselves,” Weathers told the Herald/Review on Monday, shortly after his resignation letter was sent.
“This individual was shouting and said words to the effect of ‘I bet that money is going in your pockets that these people are giving you,’ which just set me off further,” he said.
Weathers said the argument continued and a fellow MOPH member stepped between the two men to stop it, though it picked up again about 45 minutes later.
The next day, Weathers worked the fundraising booth at Frys again and spotted Childs taking video and photos in the parking lot of the MOPH table.
“I was heated, very angry in a shouting match and he shouted, ‘So you were wounded four times?’ I said, ‘yes.’ He said, ‘so you have four Purple Hearts?’ I said ‘no,’” Weathers said.
“This continued and it ended with me shouting in his face ‘yes, I have four Purple Hearts, now go away,’ and it was the complete wrong thing to do.”
Childs wanted to see Weathers’ DD 214, a document of a person’s military service, but he doesn’t carry it on him. Childs later contacted the state department of the MOPH as well as several websites, including militaryphony.com, which conducts investigations claims related to combat veterans and stolen valor.
Weathers was contacted by Larry Leighton, adjutant of the Department of Arizona’s MOPH, the following week and was asked about the altercation, as well as was informed there was a stolen valor accusation made against him.
After that call, Weathers said he altered a copy of his DD 214.
“I took a copy of my DD 214, I scanned it and using Powerpoint I changed the ‘second’ award to the ‘fourth’ award and emailed it off (to Leighton) as a continuation of the argument,” he said. “It was a ‘screw you.’”
Weathers claims full responsibility for his “dishonorable” action and regrets it. He said that he has a long history of alcohol and substance abuse and during the altercations, talk with Leighton and the time he falsified the documents he was impaired.
“I have no excuse for my actions, fully knowing those actions have brought discredit on anyone who’s ever worn a uniform and I have no excuse for it,” he said. “I can only move on from here which begins with tomorrow where for the first time I will seriously and openly inquire about substance abuse treatment.”
The resignation took effect immediately and Junior Vice Commander Gary Blankenship will step into the role of commander. Weathers is just a regular member at this point, though he said the membership is entitled to the option to revoke his membership.
Weathers sent his resignation letter to all members of MOPH as well as militaryphony.com, which has been in contact with him since they were contacted by Childs.
Dave Hardin, one of the administrators at the website as well as several similar ones, said that sadly there are many people who falsify or embellish their military experience.
They look into each claim they receive and investigate to see if there is merit to the acquisition. With Weathers’ case, Hardin called it “a case of a guy who had no reason to embellish.”
“From all accounts, it seems like he tries to do good work and supports veterans, but he falsified a submitted document,” Hardin said. “There was no reason to do this and his embellishments did not match with the records.”
“The bottom line is if anybody can claim valor in military service then there is no valor in military service; it’s disgusting.”
Though Hardin said he wishes no ill on Weathers, he believes the resignation was the right choice.
“The man should resign. He should be held to the same standard as anyone else,” he said. “If you falsify a military record and lie about service, you should be expelled from the organization.”
Weathers said he believed militaryphony.com were fair and professional in their investigation, though he felt “pressed” timewise.
When reached out to by the website, Weathers asked to have until July 8 to respond to the allegations. He said his wife was out of town and he felt she above all should and deserved to hear it from him face to face.
Beth Weathers had a commitment out of town from mid-June until this weekend dealing with a stressful family situation.
“He was respecting my stress level because it was high without even knowing this,” she said. “It’s not something you want to text or call to discuss.”
“I’m frustrated it was not handled quicker because it does look bad on him, but at the same time, how can you not love somebody that tries to protect you.”
Beth Weathers said people from the militaryphony website commented via email that Eddie’s open communication and honesty through this was extremely rare behavior.
She said that they both felt that being honest with the public was the only way to handle this matter. She feels like many veterans are struggling with substance abuse and mental health.
“He has to seek treatment that’s residential somewhere, that’s a substantial amount of time to get control over alcohol and substances and that’s what he plans to do,” she said. “He does have a traumatic brain injury, mental illness, PTSD, a seizure disorder, and so many other veterans have the same things.”
Eddie Weathers asks people respect his family and reiterated that he is solely responsible in this. He said that anyone who was asked about his Purple Hearts and confirmed he had four only did so because they didn’t know about the falsification yet. They didn’t know until Weathers confessed to them starting Sunday.
“No matter what I’ve done previously for MOPH and wounded veterans, whatever I do in the future, my actions of changing the 214 and sending it off as a simple ‘F you’ completely brings a shadow of discredit and dishonor on the organization and wonderful men and women who ever served our country,” he said. “I have no excuse for it.”