WRAL Investigates

Marines investigating Onslow man's military heroism claims

Posted May 6, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2010 7:15 p.m. EDT

— 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.

“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.