A Texas Marine named Brandon Blackstone has pleaded guilty to all charges related to stealing the valor of Casey Owens, a Marine who served in the same unit.
Owens received a Purple Heart after an attempt in 2004 to rescue a soldier who had been hit by sniper fire during the Iraq War. His Humvee ran over an IED and, as a result, Owens lost both of his legs. Owens committed suicide in 2014.
According to WFAA, Blackstone passed of Owens’ story as his own for years, falsifying “records to receive disability checks for almost a decade” and “forg[ing] witness statements from two Marines who he claimed that seen the explosion.”
Blackstone also received a mortgage-free home from charity in 2012.
The story began to fall apart when years later Blackstone when showed a picture of the destroyed Humvee to one of Owens’ friends. He was a Marine who saw the explosion from a Humvee that was behind Owens’ at the time.
That friend told other Marines about what Blackstone had done, which led to a federal investigation.
While Owens lost both of his legs, suffered severe burns on his body, had hundreds of pieces of shrapnel in his body as a result of the explosion and eventually committed suicide, Blackstone suffered a ruptured appendix, was taken to Germany for surgery and would not return to combat.
“Casey lived in hell for 10 years,” Owens’ sister Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink told WFAA. “He didn’t sleep. He was trapped within his own body, trapped with no legs and trapped with a brain that didn’t work properly anymore.”
“We just got done with Thanksgiving, and all I had was an empty place at the table. It is not a worth a single cent that this guy got. I wish I could relay that to him that he’s caused more harm than good,” she continued. “I just want it to be a closed case so that these guys know their Marine is OK. He’s standing at the gates of Valhalla. And he’s proud of them, and they’re proud of him. That’s what matters most to me.”
Blackstone has admitted that he lied to get a mortgage-free house from charity and disability stipends.
He must also return the Purple Heart he claimed.
All told, Blackstone faces up to 21 years behind bars. Owens’ family will be at Blackstone’s sentencing.