A man who falsely claimed a to be a former Navy Seal and made appearances wearing a variety of military medals was sentenced April 8 to a year in prison and ordered to repay $11,098 in veterans benefits he shouldn’t have received.
Thomas Barnhart, 59, had 21 years of legitimate Navy and Coast Guard service, including offshore duty in Vietnam. But starting in 1979, he began inflating his experience in claims for promotions and benefits according to a statement made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jake Jacobsen to U.S. District Judge James Turk, Roanoke, Va.
Barnhart pleaded guilty to the charges in January. [See related article]
Among Barnhart’s lies, according to the prosecutor: he was a Navy Seal, he received elite low-altitude parachute training, he received five Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars and a Vietnamese medal of honor. He also falsely claimed that a downed U.S. helicopter pilot died in his arms and that he saw other U.S. soldiers die around him.