Ex casts more doubts on singer's war injury claims
In this photo provided by NBCUniversal, Timothy Michael Poe appears on "America's Got Talent," on the episode that aired Monday, June 4, 2012. Poe, who claimed he was injured during a grenade blast in Afghanistan, has no military record of his purported combat injuries, the Minnesota National Guard said Tuesday, June 5, 2012. (AP Photo/NBC, Virginia Sherwood)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Timothy Michael Poe won over the crowd and the judges of NBC's "America's Got Talent" even before he began to sing, with his moving story of blocking a grenade blast in 2009 to save his buddies in Afghanistan — an act of heroism he said broke his back and left him with a brain injury.
When a judge remarked during the episode broadcast Monday on the disappearance of Poe's stutter during his cover of a Garth Brooks song, he spun another tale: He discovered his talent only after his speech therapist suggested he sing in the shower to help with the stutter.
The truth, according to an ex-wife, was that Poe not only was never hurt on the battlefield, he had been singing "pretty much his whole life" and spent four years fronting an alternative rock and cover band in Rochester, Minn. A MySpace page last updated in February 2009 for the Rochester band Crawl Space lists Poe as vocalist.
Singing was the least of Poe's fictions, according to the Minnesota Army National Guard, which has issued statements contradicting Poe's account on the television show, igniting a firestorm online, especially among veterans and on military blogs, over Poe allegedly claiming glory and sympathy to which he's not entitled.
The Guard says its records show Poe never was injured in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq.
"It's embarrassing for me and it's embarrassing for his children and it's embarrassing for the military," said Shannon Conroy, who was married to Poe from November 2005 until this April.
In the "America's Got Talent" episode that aired Monday, Poe told judges Howie Mandel, Howard Stern and Sharon Osbourne that he spent 14 years in the military that included being attacked in Afghanistan.
"I had volunteered for a team to go out and clear buildings and help out with the wounded," Poe 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."
Poe has declined multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press. Military records show he served with the 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.
"His voice, and the fact that he was in the military, the true part, should've been enough to get him by," Conroy said. "His singing alone is amazing, and I will never doubt that, but he goes a little too far."
The 35-year-old San Antonio, Texas, man claimed when he spoke to WFAA-TV of Dallas last month that he was also wounded in Iraq in 2005, when his truck was hit by a roadside bomb.
In a detailed rebuttal Thursday, Lt. Col Kevin Olson, a spokesman for the Minnesota Army National Guard, wrote that none of the military records that Poe's fiancée, Carrie Morris, provided to reporters back up his claims that he was ever injured in combat. However, he said, other documents indicate Poe suffered the injury that led to his medical retirement while training at Camp Atterbury in Indiana in mid-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. He said Poe reported to Camp Shelby in Mississippi "for pre-mobilization training on Sept. 21, 2005, but ultimately did not deploy" to Iraq.