Lessons from the strange case of Rick Duncan

NYTimes: A Deception, and a Reluctance to Ask Questions


A former Marine Corps captain who suffered brain trauma from a roadside bomb in Iraq and was at the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks. An advocate for veterans rights who opposed the war. An Annapolis graduate who was proudly gay. With his gold-plated credentials, he commanded the respect and attention of not just politicians, but also police chiefs, reporters and veterans advocates for the better part of two years.

Yet, except for his first name, virtually none of his story was true. In reality, he was Richard G. Strandlof, a charismatic drifter with a history of mental illness and petty crimes who had moved from Montana to Nevada to Colorado, assuming different names and identities along the way.

Last month, after actual veterans uncovered his deceptions, Mr. Strandlof, 32, was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then arrested by the Denver police on an outstanding warrant for driving with a suspended license. The veterans group he helped create, the Colorado Veterans Alliance, has disbanded. And now Mr. Strandlof, apparently penniless, remains in jail on $1,000 bail.


In addition to a scar on his head, which he said was from an improvised explosive device in Fallujah, Mr. Strandlof had intimate knowledge of the Veterans Affairs system, spoke authoritatively about events in Iraq and had a knowing bumper sticker on his car that read, “Got DD-214?” — a reference to the discharge papers for armed forces members leaving acting duty.


There were also things that made Mr. Strandlof seem not credible. He never mentioned what unit he served with. He claimed to have lost a finger, but had 10 digits. Minor details of his story would change from week to week.

“We attributed that to his wounds and to his P.T.S.D., and so were all easy on him,” said Joe Barrera, a Vietnam veteran whom Mr. Strandlof befriended.

Comment: Lesson ... we must follow leaders with proven character ... not simply leader-wannabes with charisma! More from CNN: Fake military veteran hid under 'ocean of lies'

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