Family Says Fake Military Medals Of Mt. Lebanon War Hero Are Being Sold At Online Auctions

| January 29, 2020

Lt. Thomas Bird

One of our ninjas sends us a disturbing tale of someone profiting off of the valor of a fallen war hero by peddling counterfeit medals and awards in his name, at auction. The auction house is denying any inappropriate sales based on the word of the consignor, who has had a medal hobby for 40 years.

Major problem though, seems the Bird family has possession of the original medals.

MT. LEBANON (KDKA) — A local family wants answers after they found their loved one’s military medals up for auction online.

Jon Delano

MT. LEBANON (KDKA) — A local family wants answers after they found their loved one’s military medals up for auction online.

The problem is they say they have the real medals.

Bird Park in Mt. Lebanon, named after the community’s first resident killed in Vietnam, is a quiet and serene place.

But now a controversy involving Lt. Thomas Bird’s medals is raising a storm.

Bird, a Marine helicopter pilot, was shot down and killed in Vietnam.

“To know that somebody is making a dime off my brother’s sacrifice makes me sick,” Bird’s brother Jon told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, members of the Bird family learned that some of their brother’s service medals were being auctioned off in Ohio.

Just one problem. The family has all of his original medals.

“They’re counterfeit,” said John Bird.

The auction was discovered by the Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon, which monitors Mt. Lebanon online memorabilia.

“If this is legit and real and the family is okay with this, we’d love to bring these medals back to Mt. Lebanon,” said Jim Wojcik, past president of the Historical Society.

But the Bird family said they have all their brother’s medals.

So what was the auction house selling?

In an email, the auction house insists they sold Lt. Bird’s real medals, with Miles King writing the family, “I have spoken with the consignor about the situation and he feels they are authentic. So you understand that he is a very knowledgeable collector that has been in the hobby over 40 years.”

Turns out service medals are readily available online, meaning anyone can buy for as little as $35 and resell them.

Unhappy that this was happening, Kelly Bird, another brother, called the auction house and spoke to the owner.

“He was very rude actually,” Kelly Bird said. “He said to me, ‘It’s not like your brother was the first soldier to shoot the first Vietnam guy, so these medals aren’t going to go for a lot of money.’”

“So I kept my cool and said, ‘Miles, that’s not the reason I’m calling. We’d like them to be taken off the auction itself.’”

That request was refused, and the three medals were auctioned last week for $1,250.

The auction house insists that the medals they auctioned really did belong to Lt. Bird and say the family offered no evidence that they weren’t genuine.

The medals? The Purple Heart, Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross.  Since there is nothing helpful I can say here, I’ll say nothing. Fair winds and following seas, LT Bird.

Read the rest here: Pittsburgh CBS Local

 

Category: Marines, Viet Nam

Comments (36)

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  1. marinedad61 says:

    This should be a lawsuit coming.
    MILES KING and his business should be identified and outed.

    It’s just about as bad as Stolen Valor.
    His awful counter argument is the same thing that sellers of phony autographs do,
    authenticating (phony) autographs,
    and then asserting the burden of proof elsewhere,
    like the signatore, who often can’t be sure of his own signature.

    However, the owners of medals don’t have that discrepancy.
    There is only 1 original (of each).
    Especially if the family of Bird produces these originals.

    Full news article….
    https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/01/28/alleged-fake-military-medals-being-sold/

  2. marinedad61 says:

    This is him…………………
    Milestone Auctions
    3860 Ben Hur Ave, Unit 8,
    Willoughby, OH 44094
    Phone: 440-527-8060
    info@milestoneauctions.com
    President: Chris Sammet
    General manager: Miles King
    Cell: 440-983-1890

    https://www.milestoneauctions.com/contact

  3. 5th/77th FA says:

    Well hell, nothing like getting my blood pressure to go sky high FIRST thing this morning. Trying to make up my mind whose is the biggest POS in this trifecta of pieces of sh^t. FIRST and foremost the dirtbag who has probably been scamming people with his “collectables hobby” for over 40 years. Pretty good con artistry work if you ask me. Too bad we don’t have his name so we can make him Google Famous.

    Next we have the lewd, crude, RUDE, and socially unacceptable General Manager of Milestone Auctions Miles King. You’re a king alright Miles; King of the POSes. FIRST rule of management dickwad is showing respect to people. Methinks that he doth protest too much.

    Last, but by no means least, is the President of Milestone Auctions Chris Sammet. There was another President who had a famous “The Buck Stops Here” sign on his desk. You had one job and that was to verify that the claims made by your company were accurate. Looks like you blew it on this one.

    Too bad it is not against the law to be a great big steaming piece of fecal matter. The 3 of you would win FIRST Prize for that.

  4. Daisy Cutter says:

    “The auction house insists that the medals they auctioned really did belong to Lt. Bird and say the family offered no evidence that they weren’t genuine.”

    It strikes me as very strange that the burden of proof is on the family to prove that the medals being sold were not authentic.

    The trend has changed. Sort of like how the POTUS – once accused – has to prove he is not guilty.

    If I were a professional auction house and sold memorabilia, it seems it would be incumbent upon me to provide a letter of authenticity signed by a family member… but hey, that’s just me. Conversely, if I bought a baseball bat signed by the Babe himself, I would want a letter of authenticity.

    When I was younger, I visited the tiny farmhouse where Jesse James was born and raised. They had for sale a paper target with holes in it and claimed it was a target shot by Jesse James when he was a boy. There was no letter of authenticity, so I often wondered how many people out there have a paper target shot up by Jesse James? Could have been legit, but the point is the letter of authenticity – which is pretty standard for memorabilia.

    • AW1Ed says:

      Prove a negative, riiight.

      It’s called “provenance” and is the history of the ownership over the life of an object. Experts and collectors are interested in the provenance of an item for several reasons, the most important of which is that well-documented provenance helps confirm that an item is authentic.
      Ref: Wiki

    • David says:

      Ma James was notorious for selling fake Jesse memorabilia. Think I read where any gun she could lay her hands on, even if manufactured after his death, became “Jesse’s”.

  5. OWB says:

    What miserable alleged human beings. Truth is, we may never know where the big lie about these medals originated. The collector may have been duped when he acquired them. The auction house may have been duped by the seller. Either way, accusing the family of misrepresenting themselves is not a good business model.

    What we DO know for sure is that Lt Bird is not a valor thief.

  6. 26Limabeans says:

    I have all my original medals that I had to buy.
    Except the NDSM. That was actually given to me.
    Just try to take that from me……

    • Daisy Cutter says:

      Pry that NDSM from your cold, dead, rigor mortis laden fingers type-of-thing?

      I know the feeling. It was my first medal. I spent hours looking at it from different angles in the mirror. This was in the days before selfies, so the only selfie I have is burned into my memory.

  7. Wilted Willy says:

    Gee, does that mean my pos brother had to pay for all of his fake medals>? He must have spent a small fortune on all of his fake shit?? I hope the family sues all parties involved in this scam??? How could they not have removed those items from the auction immediately????
    What a piece of SH#T!!!

  8. Mason says:

    This is an auction house that has no integrity. No legit collector could ever buy there again. It’s on the seller to prove provenance.

  9. Jay says:

    Wow. The only ‘presentation’ medal’s I have that were legit GIVEN to me were MSM at retirement and my NATO Medal when I was in AFG. They don’t really MEAN shit to me…but of course, neither of those are of the caliber of the Purple Heart, Air Medal, or DFC. I tend to ere on the side of the believing the family here.

  10. ninja says:

    I went to the Home Page of Milestone Auctions, then went to “Past Auctions, then typed in “Vietnam” under “Search” and found the Auction of LT Bird’s awards under Lot 573a (page 2).

    His three (3) Awards were sold on 24 January for $1200.00.

    There are six (6) pictures on that lot auction, five (5) which show the Medals.

    What is strange is that there are pictures of the BACK of his Purple Heart, his Distiguished Flying Cross/V and his Air Medal, all ENGRAVED with his Name, his Rank and his Service Component (USMCR).

    Not defending the Auction House, but could there be a small possibility that two sets of his Awards were presented to different Family Members, i.e. his Parents and Siblings and that one Relative might have sold LT Bird’s Medals on EBay or a Military/Gun Show?

    Or possibly another Relative or Family Friend got possession of LT Bird’s Medals?

    His Father, Thomas Arnold Bird, SR, passed away in 2015. His Mother passed away in 2002:

    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144893740/thomas-a-bird

    There has to be more to this story. Is it also possible that LT Bird’s Medals were engraved by the Collector who sold the Medals to the Auction House, i.e. the Collector took advantage of the news story about the Park being named after LT Bird, bought those three Medals, had them engraved with LT Bird’s name and sold it to the Auction House to collect $$$$?

    So many questions/scenarios.

    • ninja says:

      There is also the possibility that years ago, LT Bird’s Medals were either stolen or lost from his Parent’s home, never to be found again and that his Parents requested replacements for those Medals, which were passed to LT Bird’s Siblings upon the death of his Father and that the Siblings were not aware the Medals were stolen or lost.

      LT Bird’s Medals could have exchanged hands through years between different Collectors before the final Collector sold them thru the Auction House.

      Again, I think there is more to this story than what is depicted in the news.

      • Daisy Cutter says:

        Another scenario is that someone replicated the medals with engravings and it was meant to be symbolic/commemorative and not deceptive. After they changed hands a few times the story got mistold and took on a life of its own.

    • AW1Ed says:

      Occam’s Razor, ninja. Generic medals engraved and sold to the auction house.

  11. Claw says:

    11 Marines were KIA on LT Bird’s helicopter that day.

    So not only is the auction house owner and the seller bringing dishonor and disrespect to the LT, they have 10 others whose memories will be tainted for lust of money.

    (Backstory on the UH-34D available upon request, if we commenters wish to pay our respects)

    • Mick says:

      Claw,

      Could you please post the additional info on this incident?

      I’ve been trying to post a link to the USMC Combat Helicopter and Tiltrotor Association “Pop-A-Smoke” website’s account of this incident, but no joy so far.

      Thanks!

      • Claw says:

        Date: 3/21/66
        Unit: HMM-363 (Our own commenter Joe Williams’ unit?)
        USMC Helicopter UH-34D tail number 145802
        Number killed: 11

        (Extracted from VHPA write-up) While inserting US Marines as part of Operation TEXAS about 1600 hours near the hamlet of Xuan Hoa, the aircraft received large mm machine gun fire. It rolled inverted, crashed, exploded and burned. The seven passengers were from 3/7 Marines. (Details provided by the CO of VMO-6)

        Rest in Peace, Marines.

  12. Duane says:

    When my BIL was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, a fully engraved set of medals were presented to his son in Alabama. A second non-engraved set was presented to his surviving parents here in Washington, but note – they were NOT engraved. They had a copy of the paperwork for the original set provided to his son, but they knew full and aware that their set was a second set for them. It would be disgustingly easy to have a second set engraved like the first set was, but I can’t fathom how people can do that. I know – greed – but it’s still beyond my levels of comprehension. When the parents passed away 2 years ago I boxed up all the medals so that they can be given to the son when he’s old enough for HIM to decide what he wants to do with the second set. The fact that the auction house shows this level of arrogance shows what quality they are presenting.

  13. ninja says:

    Testing, 1-2-3…

  14. ninja says:

    To add on Claw’s comment:

    A UH-34D helicopter (BuNo 145802) from HMM-363 was shot down while involved in a troop lift during Operation TEXAS. Ten Marines aboard the aircraft died in the crash:

    HMM-363 Crew

    * 1LT Noah M. Kraft, Gainesville, FL, Pilot

    1LT Thomas A. Bird, Pittsburgh, PA, Co_Pilot

    * GySgt Calvin K. Chow, Honolulu, HI, Crew Chief

    *GySgt Benito Igarta, Honolulu, HI, Gunner

    Marines with K Co, 3rd Bn, 1st Marines who were Passengers:

    Sgt John A. Mitchell, Columbus, OH

    LCpl Dennis R. Andrew, Easton, PA

    LCpl James H. Cavicchi, Weymouth, MA

    PFC Louis A. Ambrose, Sewaren, NJ

    PFC Bruce L. Watkins, Atlanta, GA

    PFC Billie J. Williams, Kansas City, KS

  15. ninja says:

    Pop-A-Smoke Website has information on what happened in March 1966 to include names of the Marines who were KIA.

    However, TAH will not take the Link. Thus the reason for my “Testing, 1-2-3”. I think it may be a problem with the PDF that is within the article.

    The incident is listed as “KIA INCIDENT: 19660321 HMM-363 USMC RESERVE INCIDENT/ACCIDENTS”

    Information is very detailed as to what happened. and includes pictures of LT Bird and LCPL Andrew.

  16. Retired Grunt says:

    My medals aren’t for me, I didn’t even earn them by myself. The medals are now for my children to hopefully help them assuage the anger and hurt they feel that dad was always gone. I DARE anyone to sell them, I’ll haunt you…..

    ” I saved a life, you saved the world. “

    • ninja says:

      Retired Grunt:

      Through the years, I have seen Service Member’s Medals, Uniforms, Cerificates, Military Academy Rings, Pictures, etc etc sold on Ebay.

      Majority of them were from Estate Sales. Some of the items were from Yard Sales. Some were found in Goodwill Stores. Others were found in Storage units that were abandon.

      Some Families are not sentimental when it comes to retaining a Service Members Memory thru those items. Others may have to part with those items to pay for funeral expenses or other expenses, i.e. taxes.

      Then there are those who went thru Divorce. I have seen on Ebay item auctioned by Ex-Wives who were married to POWs. These items were Ribbon Racks that had Silver Star, Purple Heart (one cannot sell PH on Ebay anymore). I found Bronze Star with Valor and the Citation at a Military/Gun show from a Korean War Vet. Turns out his Son’s Ex-Wife took her FIL’s Military Awards and sold them on EBay as a method of “revenge” while lying to her Ex-Husband that his Dad’s award mysteriously disappeared from their home (Wow, how low can one get).

      Sadly, not all Folks come from happy backgrounds and instead of keeping military items that once belonged to a parent, they chose to get rid of them either for monetary gain or out of disgust for that parent.

      • Retired Grunt says:

        Still sucks…. I wish I could make people understand that even the medals that I possess I didn’t earn… It was the sacrifice of many wonderful human beings that gave me those things I wish I could impress upon my children the importance of them but I can’t. Nothing I ever achieved was in a vacuum.

        “I saved a life, you saved the world. “

      • Retired Grunt says:

        I don’t have a purple heart….. I think that would be the only medal I could possibly possess without the help of others….. ok, that AND the much sought after NDSM….. I don’t even consider my Afghan and Iraqi compaign metals to be earned on my own if I was there by myself I think I would be much less of a person today…. lol

  17. HT3 '83-'87 says:

    So…somebody bought $120 worth of medals for $1200 because somebody hijacked a fallen heroes backstory…sounds really slimy to me. I’m guessing this is their business model, and it sounds like the first time they’ve been called out, but they’re not going to stop. FTG!!!!