Local veteran accused of lying about service - KCTV5

Local veteran accused of lying about service

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Back in July local veterans were guarding an Olathe, KS, military recruiting office after an attack in Tennessee. One of those men, Shawn Culbertson, had been presenting himself online as a Special Ops soldier wounded in battle. Back in July local veterans were guarding an Olathe, KS, military recruiting office after an attack in Tennessee. One of those men, Shawn Culbertson, had been presenting himself online as a Special Ops soldier wounded in battle.
FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -

A national group founded to expose those who lie about their military service is going after a local man who appeared on KCTV5.

Back in July local veterans were guarding an Olathe, KS, military recruiting office after an attack in Tennessee. One of those men, Shawn Culbertson, had been presenting himself online as a Special Ops soldier wounded in battle. Now, KCTV5 has learned that he is not who he claims to be and the people behind the website Guardian of Valor are investigating his claims as well.

“One thing you’re taught while you’re in the military is integrity,” said Guardian of Valor’s founder Anthony Anderson.

Anderson is active duty with the South Carolina National Guard. He started the website in 2011 and added a YouTube page a year ago.

The confrontations on those sites have logged hundreds of thousands of views. The shaky videos shot primarily on cell phones are ambushes calling people out as “posers” because of uniform violations.

But the site also digs into “embellishers,” those claiming honors they didn’t earn.

“I mean, some of these awards, the Purple Heart, the Medal of Honor, those awards are earned on a bad day. It’s never a good day when those awards are earned,” said Anderson. “So to have someone who actually served to claim something like that, to me it’s worse than a civilian posing as a military member and doesn’t know the honor and sacrifice it takes to have earned some of these awards.”

Culbertson calls himself the CEO of a company called Op6. Those who joined him in the summer of 2015 on his mission to help vets didn’t confront him. They simply left and left wondering about what he’d told them. Now, they say they feel deceived and want him exposed.

AJ Ross spent a year on the outskirts of Baghdad in 2004. When he met Culbertson in June, he felt an instant connection.

“He told us he was a Ranger,” said Ross about conversations with Culbertson. “He did multiple tours overseas.”

George Sherer never saw battle and was eager to use his skills as a Navy Seabee to help with home improvements for veterans. What he’s learned since leaving is something he describes as humiliating.

“It gets under my skin,” said Sherer. “It really bothers me.”

Culbertson explained during his patrol of recruiting centers in July the name Op6 comes from the phrase, “Got your 6,” as in “Got your back.”

“They can’t watch each other’s 6,” said Culbertson in an interview in July. “We will watch their 6 for them.”

Just two months after the Op6crew’s first fundraiser, three guys in the team of 6 started getting suspicious. The trust founded on his claims of business experience and graduate degrees began to fade when Culbertson revealed the company was broke. They wondered, “Was he even a vet at all?”

KCTV5 requested Culbertson’s public service record. The Army confirmed he had served, but not to the extent he claims he did. Culberston agreed to meet with KCTV5’s Betsy Webster to discuss the business and charity conflict. She reserved a room at the Bonner Springs Community Center. Two hours before they were to meet, he cancelled, but later in the day agreed to discuss the matter in a recorded interview by phone.

“I said, ‘I am the CEO and so I am going to make the final decision,” said Culbertson, explaining why the others were upset. “They didn’t like being told what to do and they obviously didn’t like having to give up their weekends to work at veterans’ houses."

Culbertson describes himself on his Facebook page as a “Former Army Ranger with a Government Problem.”

A post on the public Op6 Facebook page, apologizing for a t-shirt sales mishap, is signed, “Ret. Ssgt. Shawn Culbertson, M.A.”

Asked if he submitted that post, Culberston responded, “Right, got my master’s degree.”

Asked about the rank of staff sergeant, Culbertson stumbled and laughed briefly, then said, “Okay, yes, I was.”

Not according to the U.S. Army. They say he went in as a private in 2003 and left as a private in 2006. He was never deployed and was administratively discharged after being AWOL for three months.

But in a letter to the Bonner Springs Chieftan in 2004, he wrote about being “deployed in Iraq with the 3rd Ranger Battalion.”

“On Jan. 15, 2004, I arrived in the ‘sandbox,’ as we like to call it,” he wrote. Three paragraphs later, he described a firefight. “I was wounded in the right thigh,” he wrote. “After I was hit I grabbed the two wounded down and pulled them to the vehicle.”

Then there’s an Instagram post in which Culbertson wrote he was “pulling out some of the medals to clean up” for a wedding in his dress uniform. The image accompanying the post was of a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

When asked if he had a Purple Heart, Culbertson didn’t answer directly and diverted the conversation. The U.S. Army says he does not.

His educational background isn’t what he claims in his online resume either. His LinkedIn account indicates his most recent degree as a master’s degree from University of Colorado, Boulder, earned in 2012. A spokesperson for the school said no one by his name had ever attended there.

It also indicates he earned a Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Law from the University of Kansas in 2011. A spokesman for KU says he they have no undergraduate degree on that subject and he has no degree from that school. The school did, however, indicate that he had enrolled at KU as a sophomore in 2014.

But Culbertson may have been sincere about his desire to make a difference. He did fix up a dying veteran’s house for the wife who soon after became a widow. He spent more time on that than the others in the group. Even those who left admit that.

Anderson says if he could speak to Culbertson, he’d tell him this:  

“Just be proud of what you did. You did what only five percent of America has ever done. And that’s served his nation. You didn’t make it all the way through but at least you tried. Those no reason to take honor and glory from someone else. I’m proud of you whether you were a supply guy, whether you were a cook. It doesn’t matter. You still served your country. To me, when you embellish your record like that, there’s no reason to do it. I don’t understand why.”

Culbertson took down the Op6 Facebook page several days after his telephone interview

Nothing he has done that KCTV5 has discovered is illegal, because there is no indication he embellished his service record to profit financially.

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