WRAL Investigates

Marines investigating Onslow man's military heroism claims

Posted May 6, 2010

— The Marines and U.S. Attorney’s Office are investigating an Onslow County man who is accused of speaking at veterans’ events and falsely claiming that he earned numerous awards for bravery and valor during the Vietnam War.

Michael Delos Hamilton, who is a former Marine, raised suspicions after he served as the guest of honor and spoke at a ceremony honoring veterans at the Jacksonville/Onslow County Vietnam Veterans Memorial on April 24.

He wore a Marine Corps uniform, colonel-rank insignia and military valor decorations, including the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart military medals, among others, according to court documents.

“(His) story was very emotional. It was a very good story,” said Sgt. Major Joe Houle, a retired veteran.

The problem is, his story may not be true, according to Houle.

Marines investigating Onslow man's military claims Marines investigating Onslow man's military claims

“His resume says that from ‘61 to ‘69 he went from private to colonel … unheard of,” said Houle. “(To have) two Navy crosses and eight Purple Hearts and 16 Combat Action ribbons is (also) unheard of.”

Hamilton raised suspicions at an event at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Jacksonville once before. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to charges of altering his military ID. He spent six months on probation and was ordered to get mental health treatment.

The Vietnam veterans group that invited him to the April 24 event said it didn't know about that charge. Houle said he is frustrated because he has seen him before.

“What’s really sad is that he dishonored every name on that Vietnam wall when he stood up there and claimed to be somebody that he’s not. There’s 58,000 names on that wall. If it was possible, they all turned over in their grave,” Houle said.

Court records indicate Hamilton served nine months and 12 days on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, was transferred to the temporary disability retired list in 1962 and was discharged in July 1967.

His highest rank was private first class and his only award was a Rifle Qualification Badge, according to court documents.

After Hamilton’s speech last month, investigators obtained a search warrant so they could search his house at 128 Bannerman Mill Road. He allowed them in, and they recovered eight items, including an officer sword, speech notes, officer-style pants and a blouse adorned with ribbons and medals and a belt, among other items.

A WRAL News reporter tried to speak with Hamilton at his house, but his wife said he had “no comment” and she closed the door as he stood in the background.

Hamilton previously told The Daily News of Jacksonville that his records are classified and that he stands by his story. Military stickers adorn his SUV parked in front of his house.


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  • Lost and Loaded May 7, 2010

    Thanks wa4mjf, nice to know the FBI does take it seriously.

    After further research this guy has done this before and repeatedly attempted to even get VA benefits based on his bogus record. He appears to be a true nutjob but the arrogance he displayed by trotting his act in front of former military members deserves stiff punishment. If I were the prosecutor, I'd would add a year in jail for every multiple medal he wore.

    For example, he wore 1 Navy Cross with a star for a second award. To me that means 2 violations of the federal law with a year in jail for each (served consecutively). Add up all the other bogus medals - 8 purple hearts, impersonating an officer, wearing a uniform without proper authority, etc. and maybe one could ensure he only gets to act out his fantasies in the federal pen or mental hospital for the rest of his life instead of insulting the real vets and conning the uninformed.

  • Worland May 7, 2010

    This reminds me of a young E-2, many years ago, who was wearing about 30 ribbons... including Vietnam, Purple Heart and the Silver Star. When we asked him about his impressive ribbon rack, he thought he could wear any ribbons he wanted... after all, you can buy them no questions asked at clothing sales. Amazing.

  • Worland May 7, 2010

    Compared to the exaggerations of Obama, this man's false claims of heroism and service pale in comparison. He would fit in well with Pelosi, Reid and our illustrious lying leader.

  • RonnieR May 7, 2010

    scousler, the FBI has a SA that does Stolen Valor Act violations as his specialty. He stays very busy, unfortunnately.

  • Drakula_I_G May 7, 2010

    But there's always a glass half-full response to everything. In this case, if he is lying or exaggerating, its a testament to the respect he, and all of us, has for our military.

    Excuse me? I don't think so. He has no respect for the service or he wouldn't be lying about his record and purchasing/wearing medals and rank he did not ear. And it's not "if" - his service record shows he was only a private. He already had one chance in his previous conviction - this time, he needs jail time.

  • cam7002 May 7, 2010

    OK, gwally, yet another dumb remark from you. Thanks for yet again proving how ignorant the radical right-wing is. By the way, why don't you share how you have served your country, you being such an uber-patriot? Any medals or ribbons pinned to your stuffed shirt, or just yellow ribbon magnets on the back of your car?

  • airbornemonty May 7, 2010

    When I was returning from Vietnam I escorted a private that had shot himself on the foot to keep from going into combat.

    When we arrived at the Tacoma-Seattle airport I turned him over to the two military policemen that were waiting for us. They promply put handcuffs on him and disappeared somewhere.

    To this day I still wonder if the private that I brought back is bragging to people about having being shot on the foot by the enemy.

  • GWALLY May 7, 2010

    With that kind of lying, glossing over, forgetting things, and jacking up of his record....he would fit right into Congress!! He should run for office as a liberal/entitlement democrat!!!

  • Jeremiah May 7, 2010

    "I'm usually pretty hardcore with my responses. But can't do that here. If the man truly did serve, then this is sad. But if the man didn't serve, or participate in what he is saying, that also is sad. This is either a misunderstanding, or this man is very sick."

    yes, a very strange response from you. why would you think his sickness would be an excuse? do you not think many other criminals are sick, and that often is a factor in their criminal behavior?

    i guess at least he didn't physically harm anybody?

  • Lost and Loaded May 7, 2010

    He has violated federal law and committed several infractions under the Stolen Valor Act signed into law in 2005. He can and should be prosecuted - it is up to local law enforcement to arrest and try him, I doubt if the FBI would bother.


    These dirtbags never learn, but maybe if enough of them get punished, they will think twice before wearing a uniform, rank, and medals they did not earn.