In the minutes before he sang Garth Brooks’ “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and finished to cheers from the live audience on “America’s Got Talent,” Tim Poe described how he was injured by a grenade blast in Afghanistan that left him with a broken back, traumatic brain injury, and a stutter.
As he told his story for the Monday night broadcast in a pre-recorded interview, the screen showed images of American troops in Afghanistan with a wistful soundtrack. For an encore, Poe may want to sing an apology.
“Sgt. Poe's official military records do not indicate that he was injured by a grenade in combat while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, as he reports,” Lt. Col. Kevin Olson told Military.com in a statement late Tuesday. “The Minnesota National Guard can also confirm that he was not awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds sustained in combat.”
Olson said officials are also looking into a claim Poe made to a Texas television station in which he not only said he was wounded in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq during one of two tours there.
Olson said the state Guard record shows that Poe served from Dec. 3, 2002, until May 26, 2011, as a supply specialist. The other deployment he found for Poe was to Kosovo, where he served from Oct. 10, 2007, to July 15, 2008.
Military.com was not able to reach Poe.
Poe’s musical performance Monday night on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” was all over the Internet within hours of the broadcast. In fact, it was spotted by people who knew him in his Army days and who said they were not pleased that he was including combat experiences and war wounds in his act.
On a Facebook page called “U.S. Army W.T.F.! Moments,” Poe was slammed as “a lying fake who played the ‘disabled vet card' to gain entry to the contest.”
A non-commissioned officer with the 114th Transportation Company in Minnesota, who deployed with Poe in 2009, told Military.com that Poe was never in harm’s way during the short time he was actually in country.
“I was his squad leader in Afghanistan in 2009,” said the NCO, who asked not to be identified. “We arrived in Kandahar … in July 2009 and he was with us, at most, three weeks. During that time, we had no missions outside the wire, only training on base, and possibly hauling containers around.”
He was not volunteering for missions or patrolling or kicking down doors in house searches, the NCO said, because the soldiers were still going through the in-country training. He recalled that Poe said he had a problem with his hearing and his back, and that he was airlifted out of Afghanistan within weeks of his arrival.