Gary Wayne Gilbert; taking Stolen Valor to the grave (UPDATED)

| July 24, 2013

Pat sends us this obit from a funeral home in Dothan Alabama and republished in the Dothan Eagle about Gary Wayne Gilbert, a former Army Major and OH6A pilot in Vietnam;

Gary Wayne Gilbert obit

See the part about being a POW for three years? That’s BS according to Mary. I know you’ll be tempted to blame the family, but Gilbert had POW plates on his automobile, Alabama #1444. He did serve from 1966 to 1986 and retired as a Major, but I guess the POW thing made him sexier. He also claimed that he was special ops (who went to Vietnam and wasn’t?), but he flew Navy forward observers for indirect fire support, which I guess is pretty special, but I don’t think that’s what he meant to imply.

UPDATE: According to some of our readers, you don’t have to be a POW to have POW plates, you just have to support POW/MIA efforts, but we have some more screen shots of him claiming to be a POW;

Gary Wayne Gilbert the POW
Gary Wayne Gilbert interview

Category: Phony soldiers

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Another case of honorable service tainted by lies. WHY WHY WHY?


And the state of Alabama DMV can’t make a simple phone call to the DVA and say, “Hey, this guy is claiming POW, whatcha got on him?”

These are the people who are going to run your healthcare soon, folks. Sleep well.


Ahhhhh, so I’m not the only one reading the obituaries!


NHSparky: I doubt the Alabama DMV did – but it’s possible they might have.

As we’ve discussed before here, DVA and DoD use different criteria to determine POW status. Further, about a year ago DVA was confirmed to have been paying VA compensation to nearly twice as many Vietnam “POWs” as DoD records show are still-living actual Vietnam POWs. And for the Gulf War, they were paying almost 14x as many people compensation as Gulf War “POWs”.

Any state wanting a straight answer on whether not an individual is a former POW should be contacting DoD – not DVA. On the issue of former POWs, the VA is absolutely, positively “out to lunch”.


I’ll never understand it…Why they gotta lie.


For the record: per DoD’s official listing, there was only one individual with the last name “Gilbert” recognized as a POW or MIA in Vietnam. That was Paul F. Gilbert, 1st Lt, USAF, who became a MIA in South Vietnam on 18 June 1972. His HOR was Plainview, TX.

He didn’t come back alive. His remains were later recovered. They were identified on 12 October 1994.

This list includes all SEA POWs who were returned alive to US control, regardless of status (civilians are included) or how long they were held.


Another disgusting POS.


@3 In this neck of the woods they are not called Obits. They are the Irish sports page.


Yeah, this is probably a case where state law ends up trumping federal law. States should not be able to issue POW plates without receiving clearance from the DPMO, but I know that can rile up the states’ rights crowd.


In Massachusetts you have to submit a DD-214 that denotes you were awarded a Prisoner of War Medal in order to get the “Ex POW” Plate. Not sure what other States take in the way of verification…


Yeah, he may have died recently – but he STILL has to give an account for his sins in front of the Ultimate Judge.


How could the family not know? How likely is it that he just took off and did his own thing for three years and then decided to return home? “Sorry I didn’t call or write, Honey – I was a POW!”


Clarification: here’s Alabama’s law regarding special MOH, PH, and POW plates:

It’s loose as hell. All it requires for the POW plate is that the individual show ” satisfactory proof that he or she was a duly recognized former prisoner of war”.

The AL DMV defines “satisfactory proof” as being “certification from the Department of Veteran Affairs”.

The AL DMV website doesn’t specify clearly whether the documentation is from the Federal DVA or the AL State DVA. However, the site refers questions regarding other military-specific plates to the state DVA website. For other Afghanistan/Iraq plates, the vet is advised to hand-carry a copy of his/her DD214, deployment orders, or a copy from his commander to his/her local state VSO for assistance in getting those plates.

My guess is that Gilbert provided whatever the AL DVA was accepting at the time the guy applied for his POW tags – whatever that was. AL PH plates seem to have first become available in 2009.

Based on DMPO’s records not showing the guy as ever being a POW or MIA, I have to say I also wonder about the authenticity of whatever Gilbert provided.


Mr. Bill – if he was estranged from his parents/siblings, he might easily have dropped from their site when he went into the Army. He could have gone to Vietnam, then elsewhere. So long as he didn’t reconnect with them prior to about 1972 or so, he could easily have fabricated a period of captivity – and passed it off as something he didn’t want to talk much about.

He also wasn’t from anywhere near where he retired (the guy was born in TX). But the obit says he was born about 30 mi S of Odessa. The Gilbert who was a real MIA had a HOR about 50 mi N of Lubbock – well over 200 mi away. So it’s very unlikely he had any family near where he was living when he died.

If he didn’t get married until after he retired, the folks in his unit couldn’t “dime him out” for being a liar about his POW status. So he could have fooled his wife and/or any kids that way.

I’m kinda surprised he was pulling that stunt near Rucker, though. Risky – that’s a BIG retirement area for former Army Aviators, some of whom might possibly have known the guy.


@ 8 … Yo … stop picking on the Irish!


@7 – Really? a POS? I might have missed it, but what evidence do you have on this guy that shows he lied about this?

Also, even if the guy did lie about being a POW (which I don’t understand why he would), he seems to have had a remarkable service record that includes a purple heart, a distinguished flying cross (though he is not listed on the wiki page for DFC, btw)

Are all the medals listed in his Obit fake? If not, I think we need to back up a few steps — hand salute — and return to this case with respect for a dead war hero.


There’s an old saying, “Andy” – “One awshit wipes out all your attaboys.”

Lying about being a POW is a major-league “awshit”.

And as for evidence that casts grave doubt on the truth of his claim of being a POW – see the document linked in comment 6 above. That’s the official POW/MIA list from the Vietnam war from DoD. As I stated clearly there, it includes ALL US personnel – civilian or military – known and officially recognized to have been either POW or MIA in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

This guy isn’t on the list.


This past Veterans Day, he fooled a Birmingham, Alabama Media Station as well as the Alabama Veterans Memorial:

#3 AverageNCO: Great minds “read” alike..

Going to be interesting to see what is marked on his Headstone when he buried at Arlington…


OK … for eveyone playing and scoring at home:

This guy … I mean corpse … is a fruad.

No POW, MIA, or DFC!

Any questions?

Very well!

That is all!


One other thing about this guy:

The POW in a cave story … um … interesting how he might hang his hat on that story … it suits his narrative!

AlGoreNet: vietnam war pow cave

Very interesting!


@14 – Hondo, that’s certainly a plausible scenario. I had a bit of a mathematical malfunction, thinking he was married during his “POW years” but I can now see that he wasn’t. Still, he did get married while he was still in the service, so his wife must have been acquainted with some of his fellow servicemembers. I wonder if he was telling the POW story before he retired?


Considering that the forward observers in Vietnam were doing an extremely dangerous job, and getting them there was equally as dangerous, I, too, question why he thought it was necessary to slap some slop onto an otherwise respectable record. It’s disappointing to think that he had to add a little dash of something for some reason.

John Robert Mallernee

Many years ago, I read somewhere that NO captured Americans in Laos were ever returned.

But, more recently, there was a Hollywood movie made about ONE (01) who escaped and was rescued.

John Robert Mallernee

So, if this guy is a fake, is he still going to be buried at Arlington?


@16 Not sure how accurate the list is, but the DFC recipients listed for Vietnam in MIlitary Times does not show a Gary Wayne Gilbert either, although they list only 15,000+ DFC’s that were awarded….you think they would have at least gotten one of them since he claims he has two.


@25 Doug Sterner manages that list, and he said not all DFC’s are loaded. He’s trying to take care of the database by precedence of order of the medals, and he’s still trying to load Silver Star medals.


As far as to how he got the POW tag for his car- There, they still use the “Good ole Boy’s” club. If he knew the person at the DMV or found a topic for them to talk about together for a moment, then his word would have been taken. I grew up in this area (Fort Rucker,Headland,Geneva,Dothan, you know LA-lower Alabama) and it very much follows it’s own rules. The rules set forth on them by the “Gov” would only apply to “Foreigners”, People like from New York and California. 🙂


@26 Thanks NCO, again wasn’t too sure how in depth or updated the record was which is why I placed the caveat on my statement. But…..if you lie about being a POW how tough would it be to add in a couple of DFC’s? His obit says DFC with olc.


John Robert Malernee: that doesn’t seem to be the case. I did a quick search and found several US POWs that were captured in Laos and were later repatriated.

Look at the list shown in comment 6, but search for those where “country casualty” is Laos and the “status” is RR. Those with code RR were returned alive. Those with code EE escapted and returned to US custody after escaping and evading.


The Alabama Veterans Memorial honored him and four others by presenting them with free STEPPING STONES..Everyone else has to provide a donation


ANDY, HONDO provided you proof that Gilbert was not a POW. Where is your proof he was? If he lied about being a NAM-POW, then there is a chance he lied about his awards
What makes you think he was a “War Hero”?


Again. Fraud. I can’t tell you how and why I am so sure, but I can say FRAUD.

John Robert Mallernee

@ #6 Hondo:

When I first looked at that list, I couldn’t see what you were referring to, until I finally figured out that country of casualty and country of return were two different places, i.e., some were captured in Viet Nam, but later returned from Laos.

At least, I THINK that’s what I’m looking at.

A bigger puzzle is the POW/MIA bracelet I’ve been wearing for a zillion years, inscribed, “LT. COL. PAUL JOHNS 6-28-68”.

His name is not anywhere on that list.

I know he’s legitimate, because when I first obtained that bracelet (eons ago), I wrote to the Department of Defense inquiring about him, and the welfare of his family.

In response, I received a nice letter with details of his life and how he became a POW, after which they declared him dead, although his body was never recovered (at that time).


I was in error above – the list in comment 6 contains only those accounted for (e.g., POWs who were returned, who escaped, or MIAs who’ve been definitively accounted for – plus the deserter and turncoat Garwood). Those still not formally accounted for are on another list:

JOHNS, PAUL F, USAF, HOR: Laconia, IN, is on the second list. He was lost in Laos. He was an O4 at the time of loss, but likely received at least one promotion between the time of loss (and declaration as MIA) and the presumptive finding of death in his case. He’s not yet been formally accounted for (remains returned and identified).


# 33 John Robert Mallernee:

Your guy is LT Thomas Paul Jones, US Navy, who was declared MIA because his body was never recovered:

Thank you for wearing his bracelet.


AnotherPat: um, don’t think so. Name and date of loss for LT Jones isn’t a match, and neither does the service (Navy doesn’t use “Lt. Col.” as a rank abbreviation and last name was “Johns” vice “Jones”).

See comment 34. The individual named there is still unaccounted for, has the correct name, was from a service that uses “Lt. Col.” as a rank abbreviation, and was lost on the correct date. Though he was a Maj. at the time, it was common practice during Vietnam to continue to consider for promotion (and promote, if selected) those declared MIA until such time as they were declared presumptively dead.

Hopefully one day soon both will be recovered and accounted for, and can rest in peace in their own native soil.


JustTheFactszMa’am: hopefully we’ll find out fairly soon. FOIA request is in the mail.


#33 John Robert Mallernee:

Hondo is absolutely correct in #36.

I was wrong.

No Excuse, Drill SGT.

Thanks, Hondo for correcting my error.

And thanks, John Robert Mallernee, for wearing Paul Johns bracelet. Hopefully, one day, you will have the opportunity to return it to his family.


AnotherPat: de nada. Regrettably, there are still so many (1640+) unaccounted for from Vietnam that similar names are all too common. And the print on the report from DPMO is small – at least for my older eyes. (smile) It’s pretty easy to end up a line or two off or focus on the wrong name.

Some will doubtless never be recovered (the oceans and the jungles/mountains of SEA are huge places). But we can certainly hope to see the number of those recovered rise – and those unaccounted for continue to fall.


Thank You, rb325th and Hondo, for pointing out the loophole in these laws. I am currently an Alabama resident and retired military. I shall be contacting my state representative and request these laws be amended. I am sure that this will be as easy as nailing jell-o to the wall, but I do so enjoying bothering politicians.

Brian Novak

I shared a six man tent/hootch for nine months with Gary Gilbert while serving with the 101st Airborne in VietNam, from 1968 until he went home in 1969. I had no further contact with him after that time. Gary was not a P.O.W. during any part of that time. He was awarded a Purple Heart and either a Silver Star or DFC (I don’t remember which) during that period.
Most of the pilots in our unit (HHB/DIVARTY, later A/377th Arty) flew Naval Gunfire and ANGLICO missions. Most of us, including Gary, flew armed scouts (OH-6) at times. I remember Gary best as the pilot who liked to fly the DIVARTY commander, COL Lloyd Picou around, and for his tall stories.

Brian Novak

I should add… Perhaps he had a second tour. Many of us helicopter pilots did. I wouldn’t know.


Brian … Please tell us more. Your insight is important.

Mike McGrath

Gilbert is an exposed POW “wannabe” fraud. Arlington case no. for investigation of this case is: 146215. Call Arlington PAO for an update. 1-877-907-8585

Mike McGrath
NAM-POWs Historian
POW in Hanoi 5 years 8 months


Having conducted several cases the same as and similar to this for The POW Network in years past I can say that in large Military Plates are wrongfully obtained by forging the give Medal, Conflict, Branch of Service or Type Service albeit National Guard, Reserves etc. onto a DD-214/215 theirs or somebody else’s with their name forged onto it. In most cases the issuing authority of these illegal plates will do little to nothing about them except possibly not reissue upon expiration unless proper documentation is presented and since forgeries were acceptable the first time they got issued it is likely they will be again. The only possible way of stopping the individual is proving to Law Enforcement that they are driving with invalid plates and obtained them through forgery of Local, State and Federal Government Documents. I was very close to closing such a deal with local law enforcement on a Silver Star plate when the first Stolen Valor Act was rescinded making the subject hands off for the time being. I have since moved and without me as their complainant they simply have no case. As far as whether or not his family members knew of his tall tail it is likely they did not or if they did they only learned of it in very recent years. These jerks live their fantasy worlds outside of their homes and family lives, hiding it from them because they know the shame and damage it wiould cause them personally to… Read more »

Jason Foshee

MAJ Gary Gilbert was a hero. I knew him. I know his history and this dishonors his sacrifice. I am his nephew. You are horrible to dishonor a great man. I have seen all of his medals and all of his photos from 3 tours in Vietnam. He was captured in a place where the war was technically not being fought. He suffered years of nightmares and numerous health problems until his death. This post hurts our family terribly!


Gilbert is the one who hurt your family and no one else. The records speak for themselves.


Who took the pictures of him as a POW?


Jonn does his homework before he posts somebody up here. If this guy is posted up here means the records did not back up his claims.