America's Got Talent contestant accused of making up Afghanistan injury story
Timothy Michael Poe, a contestant on the TV show 'America's Got Talent', who claimed that he broke his back and suffered a brain injury in Afghanistan has been accused of making the story up.
Timothy Michael Poe, 35, a country singer originally from Texas, won over the audience on the TV talent show on Monday night, with his moving story of blocking a grenade blast in 2009 to save his colleagues in Afghanistan.
He also claimed that he only found out he could sing when a speech therapist told him to sing in the shower to rid himself of a stutter.
Mr Poe told the judges that he spent 14 years in the military and was attacked in Afghanistan.
"I had volunteered for a team to go out and clear buildings and help out with the wounded," he said during a taped interview on the show. "There was a guy who comes up with a rocket-propelled grenade. I saw it coming down, and by the time I turned and went to jump on top of my guys, I yelled 'Grenade' and the blast had hit me."
But Shannon Conroy, who was married to Mr Poe from November 2005 until April, claims he has been singing "pretty much his whole life", while the Minnesota Army National Guard, with whom he served, says its records show he was never injured in combat in either Afghanistan or Iraq.
"It's embarrassing for me and it's embarrassing for his children and it's embarrassing for the military," said Ms Conroy.
Military records show Mr Poe served with the Minnesota National Guard from December 2002 through May 2011 as a supply specialist. They show he was deployed in Kosovo from October 2007 to July 2008, and then served in Afghanistan for about a month in mid-2009. The sergeant was honorably discharged in 2011 because of a medical disability.
Lt. Col Kevin Olson, a spokesman for the Minnesota Army National Guard, wrote that none of the military records back up his claims that he was injured in combat.
However, he said, other documents indicate Mr Poe suffered the injury that led to his medical retirement while training in Indiana in July 2009 before he deployed to Afghanistan. He also said there were no official records showing that he ever deployed to Iraq or was injured there.
In another discrepancy, Mr Poe also gave "America's Got Talent" a photograph of another soldier and passed it off as himself. The caption of the original picture on the official military website Defense.gov says it shows Staff Sgt. Norman Bone serving in Afghanistan in 2006.
The discrepancies prompted a wave of criticism on military blogs and social media.
Nick Colgin, a medic who came home from Afghanistan in 2008 with a brain injury after a rocket-propelled grenade hit the side of his Humvee, said fabricated tales of heroism dishonour other veterans whose service goes unnoticed.
"There's 2.4 million veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, and for someone to go on national TV and bring disrespect to them and their service - it's inexcusable," he said.