(AP) For pretending that he was a decorated U.S. military veteran, 59-year-old Reggie L. Buddle of Puyallup, Washington, must tend to the graves of those who really were. U.S. Magistrate Kelly Arnold in U.S. District Court in Tacoma sentanced the counterfeit Vietnam vet to two years' probation and 500 hours laboring at Tahoma National Cemetery for posing as a decorated U.S. Marine captain and military chaplain in 2005 and 2006.
Reggie L. Buddle of Puyallup, standing in the khaki shirt, during the 2006 opening ceremony for the Washington State Senate. (Photo provided by U.S. Attorney's office)
Buddle, who never was in the Marine Corps, pleaded guilty in April to unlawful wearing of U.S. military medals and decorations. That followed an investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
After the hearing, Buddle, who served two years as an Army enlisted man but never in combat and never earning any of the medals he wore, apologized in court Monday and said he was ashamed, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Friedman said such cases, which have been growing nationwide since Congress passed stiffer measures 18 months ago against pretending to be a member of the armed forces, were researched to recommend an appropriate sentence.
"In this case, we thought it was a good idea to teach him what true service is like," Friedman said. When Buddle begins serving those who rest at the national military cemetery in Kent, he must avoid any interaction with families of veterans.
"The court expressed concern that he not be allowed to participate in any funerals or counseling sessions or any other type of matters at the cemetery. That was part of his underlying crime; it was clear he will be there to supply labor," Friedman said.
Though Buddle was never an ordained chaplain or reverend, nor authorized by state law to act in any such capacity, he officiated at servicemen's funerals, weddings and baptisms. Friedman said state statutes were researched and found to protect the legitimacy of marriages in such instances.
Buddle even hoodwinked the state Senate.
On Feb. 27, 2006, dressed in a Marine Corps uniform replete with the rank and medals he awarded himself, Buddle stood before the Senate and gave the prayer at the opening ceremony. Not everyone was so certain that Buddle was the real item. Doubters called authorities, who began investigating.
Among the unearned medals and service decorations with which Buddle festooned his uniform were those for valor and service in Vietnam; a Combat Action Ribbon authorized for wear by those who have fought enemy forces; a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon, issued to members of units that displayed extraordinary heroism under fire; and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, a high-ranking medal authorized for "extraordinary" contribution to national defense.