Rantz Exclusive: Semi Bird reprimanded for fraud against US Army, after ‘stolen valor’ claims

May 28, 2024, 5:02 PM | Updated: May 31, 2024, 2:51 pm

Image: Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird speaks at a Veterans Day event at th...

Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird speaks at a Veterans Day event at the State Capitol in Olympia in 2023. (Photo provided by the Semi Bird for Governor campaign)

(Photo provided by the Semi Bird for Governor campaign)

The candidate for governor the Washington State Republican Party endorsed was reprimanded by the Department of Defense (DOD), with a commanding officer saying he perpetuated “fraud” against the United States government in an effort to advance his career over more deserving candidates. The investigation followed accusations from the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, that Republican gubernatorial hopeful Semi Bird engaged in stolen valor by misrepresenting his actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom and claiming unearned experience.

Bird was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with Valor for “exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy” on July 9, 2006. He was serving as a Special Forces Engineer during Operation Iraqi Freedom at the time. He was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal for “exceptionally meritorious service” as an Area Support Team Member. Both awards are highlighted on Bird’s campaign website and have been noted in speeches and on social media to bolster his candidacy.

However, documentation obtained exclusively by “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH includes a 2009 letter of reprimand against Bird. The letter, signed by then-Brigadier General Hector Pagan, details several instances of misconduct, including that Bird wore awards and badges he did not earn, falsified documents and sought career advancement by deceiving the U.S. Army. (A PDF of the documents can be seen here.)

What did Semi Bird say he did to earn commendation?

Bird was awarded the Bronze Star and a Commendation Medal for heroic work on the battlefield. A narrative accompanying the Bronze Star, obtained by “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH, said he helped neutralize an ambush attack “with total disregard for his personal safety.”

Additionally, two Green Beret operators who were on the ground on July 9, 2006, including one who he says was responsible for conduct which Bird (and Bird’s major) claimed credit for, spoke exclusively to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH, describing Bird as a “fraud.”

Bird has responded to the allegations by asserting they are an attempt “to dishonor a veteran.” He denies any acts of stolen valor, while downplaying the significance of the reprimand.

Why did the U.S. Army reprimand Semi Bird?

As outlined in the reprimand letter, Pagan told Bird the investigation found he “wore awards and badges that you had not earned.” Additionally, Pagan said Bird knowingly “submitted false documents for the sole purpose of gaining an unfair advantage against other individuals” seeking entry into the Warrant Officer Corps. Entry into this program would have afforded Bird a significant increase in pay and responsibilities.

Pagan also discovered Bird “manipulate(d) the system for your personal gain by aiding in the drafting of NCOERs (non-commissioned officer evaluation reports) which you knew to be false” and “enlisted the help of senior NCOs and Officers to perpetuate this fraud against the government.” He said Bird was seeking “personal gain” at the expense of the “good order and discipline of the armed forces.”

“The submission of false information to gain a promotion amounts to fraud against the United States Government,” Pagan wrote.

Pagan began investigating after members of the Special Forces community raised questions about the veracity of many of Bird’s claims. Some heard him claim he was from a unit they knew he was never with. Others said he attended schools that they had been to, but Bird was never able to confirm his attendance.

“Your actions represent a serious departure from the high standards of integrity and professionalism expected of a Special Forces Solider in this Command. Your conduct in this matter causes me to seriously consider your suitability for continued service as a Solider in the United States Army,” Pagan added.

Bird responded to the reprimand within seven days as required, writing that he “first and foremost accept full responsibility for my actions.”

Bird accompanied Green Berets as part of a Tactical Psychological Operation Team on the evening of July 9, 2006. He was in the trail vehicle in the convoy alongside his major.

In the narrative, then-Staff Sergeant Bird is said to have killed an enemy combatant who threatened soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades (RPG). He then helped secure the perimeter around a disabled American military vehicle while still under heavy attack.

The narrative says that at least four enemy personnel engaged the convoy in an ambush, which included two RPGs. Bird exited and “without hesitation, dismounted the vehicle in order to effectively return fire,” according to the narrative.

After reportedly suffering a concussion from the RPG blast approximately twenty feet away, he “immediately regained his composure, got accountability of his security element, and returned fire.” A second RPG reportedly struck Bird “in the helmet with a piece of fragmentation.”

After a third RPG severely wounded an Iraqi Special Operations Force soldier embedded with the Americans, the narrative says Bird “was able to neutralize the threat.”

But, according to operators on the ground during the ambush, Bird did not engage the enemy as the narrative claimed.

Semi Bird accused of stolen valor

“The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH spoke with two Green Berets who engaged the enemy on July 9, 2006. Both Special Forces operators, requesting anonymity to avoid personal gain from their service, provided a stark contrast to the narrative surrounding the commendation awarded to Bird.

“I shot the guy. I shot the RPG gunner. So, it was a bit of a surprise to me many, many years later to read a copy of the award where apparently that was claimed by Sergeant Bird, or whoever wrote the actual write-up for him,” the Green Beret disclosed.

Amidst the chaos of battle, where “everybody’s firing in all directions,” the Green Beret acknowledged that some details could be mistaken. However, he characterized Bird’s claim as “a stretch,” expressing doubt over whether Bird even exited his vehicle during the engagement.

“Yes, he was firing off if he was outside of his vehicle firing at all, which I have no knowledge of. He surely wasn’t doing any of that in the direction that I was engaged in. He definitely didn’t get the RPG gunner, which was one of the bits of the write-up in the actual award, which again, I didn’t see until years later,” the Green Beret said.

‘There was immediate pushback’ from stolen valor claims against Semi Bird

While recovering from an injury sustained during the battle, the Green Beret heard Bird and his major had “written each other valor awards” for their supposed conduct.

“I got a good laugh at it at the time. That’s just a s*** show. That’s never gonna go anywhere because nobody ever saw them do anything,” he explained. “And then it just kind of disappeared off into the darkness, right? Didn’t hear anything else about it. Didn’t really care. But I was never asked or interviewed about any of the stuff because I’d been medevacked.”

The Green Beret says when Bird and the major’s awards were submitted, “There was immediate pushback in-house.”

He and others didn’t make too big a deal after the initial pushback because, he said, “We were in the middle of a war.”

‘Stolen Valor isn’t just some idiot at the mall wearing a combat award that he didn’t earn’

About five months later, the Green Beret says there was an awards ceremony that honored Bird’s major. He said he remembers Birds’ narrative to closely mirror what was submitted for his major.

He called the ceremony “bittersweet” because he had been jumping through hoops to get two other Special Forces recognized for their valorous conduct. He said he had to repeatedly nominate them before they were finally awarded Bronze Star medals.

“I finally got them approved. And in the same ceremony, there is this field grade who is having a valor award read for his actions during this same deployment. It was comical because of how long it took me to get guys who actually, really deserved something recognized. Two years, submitting over and over again” he said.

The Green Beret said there were other parts of the narrative that he knew other Special Forces were responsible, yet Bird and the major were taking the credit.

“That was probably the most unique and egregious type of aspect of this,” he said. “Stolen valor isn’t just some idiot at the mall wearing a combat award that he didn’t earn or whatever. But somebody who actually took credit for stuff that other people around him did. This is the first time I’ve ever seen or heard of that.”

A second Green Beret backs ‘Stolen Valor’ claims against Semi Bird

“The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH spoke with a second Green Beret and senior operator who took part in the firefight. He also said Bird was not responsible for what earned him the commendations.

“(The other Green Beret) killed one of the RPG firers. So that part where Misipati (Semi) Bird says that he shot and engaged and neutralized the guy that was shooting RPGs — that’s a blatant lie,” the second Green Beret told “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

He said this RPG enemy was the one directly in front of, and closest to, the truck Bird was in. He does not believe he could have been talking about another enemy fighter.

This second Green Beret also said he did not see Bird exit the disabled vehicle to help get it towed out. According to this Green Beret, who saw the operational summary report, no enemy KIA (“killed in action”) was attributed to Bird.

“(The other Green Beret) facilitated that hookup, not Misipati Bird. Bird didn’t get out of the truck and pull security, all those (are) complete lies,” he said.

He also questioned Bird’s concussion, calling it “an embellishment of bulls***.”

“What I will tell you is that Misipati Bird and this whole process, you know, he used this to gain favor and empower his career after that particular point, all the way up to now, including being the nominee for the Republican Party for the governorship of the state of Washington. And it’s all been built on a fabrication of lies,” he concluded.

‘This is personal. It’s very personal.”

When he saw that Bird and the major were up for a valor award, the second Green Beret says he remembers thinking, “This is such bulls**t.” But he also acknowledges that, at the time, the awards process for Special Forces “was absolutely broken.”

“This is personal. It’s very personal,” he explained. “And I’ll tell you, the biggest regret that I have about my time is not fighting hard enough for my teammates. Because they should have been — each one of them — should have had multiple awards recognizing, (and) acknowledging their valorous activities, the gallantry, that inconspicuous valor that they put their asses in harm’s way for, over and over.”

A fear of his is to see Bird’s stolen valor discredit the Green Berets — the “quiet professionals,” which is how Green Berets prefer to behave — and be used to advance a political career. He hoped  Bird would quietly go away after this news was revealed. He says this is an example of Green Berets trying to police themselves.

But this is not the only claim of “stolen valor” made against Bird.

The ‘scuba’ claim

The second Green Beret said Bird initially submitted a photo to the Army where he was wearing Scuba Diver Insignia on his uniform (it’s commonly referred to as a “scuba bubble”). It is earned after qualifying as a Special Forces combat diver. The Green Beret said Bird falsified this history as well.

When asked about his scuba bubble, the Green Beret said Bird could not recall basic and key facts about the scuba combat diver school in Key West, Florida. He initially told someone he thought the school was in “Key West, California,” according to a third military source.

“It is a very memorable experience. It will be one of the most physically challenging and exhausting activities you will participate in your life,” the Green Beret said.

He said that because Bird couldn’t explain his experiences particularly well, it led to the Pagan investigation. He called Bird “a snake slithering through the National Guard processing system.”

A third military source, who requested anonymity, confirmed this account.

Bird accepted the reprimand’s findings at the time

In a Dec. 9, 2010 memorandum in response to the letter of reprimand, obtained by “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH, Bird wrote, “I first and foremost accept full responsibility for my actions.” Bird incorrectly dated the letter 2010 instead of 2009.

“The intent of this memorandum is to acknowledge the fact that I submitted false and inaccurate information in my Warrant Officer (WO) packet to include false NCOER’s in order to compensate for unrated time and meet the requirements for the WO program. My actions constitute nothing less than a fraud against the United States Army plain and simple,” Bird wrote.

He admitted that he “took advantage of the senior NCO’s and Officers in my chain of command” by betraying their trust and offered that “this incident has served as a wakeup call for me as a senior NCO.” He said he has submitted new forms, corrected records, and offered a new official photo “to correct the wrong I have perpetrated against the United States Army.”

Prior to this reprimand, Bird had been court-martialed for assaulting a sergeant while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said it was the result of the sergeant using a racial slur against him.

Bird pushes back on stolen valor concerns

Bird defended his record during a 67-minute phone interview May 24. He lamented that “it’s amazing how on Memorial Day we lost ourselves once again to try to discredit a veteran” and called the claims made against him “evil.”

The gubernatorial hopeful flatly denied taking credit for the actions of others. He pointed to documentation from the award narrative and his major’s witness account as proof.

Bird also alleged that, at the time, a senior noncommissioned officer from his unit “had a problem with me” and had been out to get him. He would not name the individual.

“This individual went so far as to a Judge Advocate General telling him, ‘If you continue to push this, we will file charges on you. I don’t know why you’re going after Bird so hard. But if you continue to do this, we will file charges on you. We verified his stuff. Why are you doing this?'” Bird recalled.

What “awards and badges” did Bird wear that he didn’t earn?

Bird also addressed the reprimand finding that he wore awards and badges that he did not earn.

Initially, Bird said he could only think of the scuba bubble badge. He denied telling anyone he said he trained in Key West and this resulted from a paperwork problem that prevented him from verifying that he attended training school.

Bird said there was an allegation made about an Aviator Badge he was wearing from his time as a flight medic. But he said that the National Guard “verified all of my awards and medals” when they “scrubbed” through his personnel form and the Aviator Badge “was verified.”

“That was it. So, when they (Pagan) say ‘awards and badges,’ that’s the terminology,” he said.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Images: Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird has addressed the reprimand finding that he wore awards and badges that he did not earn.

Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird has addressed the reprimand finding that he wore awards and badges that he did not earn. (Photos obtained by “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH)

“The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH obtained two official Army photos: one taken before the reprimand, and one after. According to an independent third party expert who reviewed the photos for this story, between the photos, Bird appears to have removed the German Jump Wings, an oak leaf cluster on his Army Commendation Medal, and a star device on his National Defense Service Medal, in addition to the Special Forces Combat Divers Badge.

Promises of access to files were unfulfilled

Bird explained that he had documents on his computer in a folder titled “Slander” that would dispute claims made against him. During the interview, he promised to provide them to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

“I’m gonna give you everything, OK? I’m gonna give you so much more. Because at this point in time, I am sitting here with my wife … we signed up to try to do something good for our state … this is going to be good because I want everyone to know …,” he explained.

Hours after the call, attorney Matthew Taylor with Boise-based Taylor Law Offices emailed “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH. He said he would assist Bird in providing “additional answers or comments regarding your discussion about his military history” and that future requests should go through him, to be taken “under consideration.”

Initially, Taylor did not respond to multiple emails asking for the files and for clarification on what awards and badges were referenced in the reprimand to put better context to the photos. We had set a noon deadline for receiving these files. However, at 3:54 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, Bird representatives contacted “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH requesting a meeting the following day, Wednesday, May 29. But he did not provide the promised documents. After careful consideration, we have decided to publish the story at 5 p.m. on May 28. Any new information or context provided by Bird’s representatives will be included in future updates.

Bird claimed confusion over the reprimand

When first asked about the reprimand, Bird went into detail about a rule violation, explaining what, why, and how everything happened. He said the reprimand was not supposed to be public, claiming it was “a reprimand that … happens all the time in the military. And my reprimand, again, was supposed to be buried.”

But he was talking about a separate incident unrelated to the Pagan reprimand.

Bird said he falsely attested on an evaluation sheet for a soldier in his unit, to help that soldier advance in his training. This incident had not been previously reported.

Bird explained that he merely confused this new incident with what Pagan found because this happened so long ago. He then said this incident didn’t lead to a reprimand. But he also claimed it was “the only reprimand I ever had” and claimed this incident “was supposed to be sealed.” This leaves an open question as to whether or not Bird actually did face a second reprimand tied to the incident he revealed.

“This is a duress moment for me. And I’m not trying to make excuses for it. I’m just being very, blatantly honest with you. There is truth in what I’m saying. But there’s a lot of confusion because I don’t recollect much of what you’re saying. I do recollect that firefight,” Bird said.

Former JAG breaks down the severity of Semi Bird stolen valor claims

“The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH shared the DOD documents and Bird interview with attorney Jeffrey Lustick for his review and expertise.

Lustick served in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps and was the director of Military Justice for the 1st Special Operation Wing and the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. He’s also a former Washington Air National Guard member and currently has a civilian legal practice with offices in Bellingham and Las Vegas.

“When you wear a badge, a ribbon, or medal on your uniform, and it’s something that you did not earn, it is potentially a criminal offense under Article 106(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and could result in brig (jail) time, (rank) reduction to Private, forfeitures of pay, and a bad conduct discharge,” Lustick explained to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

It’s also a crime under the UCMJ to make a false official statement under Article 107. Lustick says it has a maximum punishment of five years in prison, a reduction to E-1, and a possible dishonorable discharge.

Lustick explained that, “this can also be termed ‘stolen valor’ under civilian law and military law, and it’s a complete slap in the face when valor is stolen by a military member.”

In 2005, Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act to prohibit falsely representing oneself as having been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces or any service medals or badges. However, in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional. In response, Congress enacted a more limited version of the Stolen Valor Act in 2013. This revised act makes it illegal to falsely claim to have earned the top four valor awards, the Purple Heart, or combat-related qualification badges for financial gain or any tangible benefit.

Is this stolen valor under the law?

When asked if Bird’s case was one of stolen valor, Lustick said “it depends.”

“If his German Jump Wings and the ‘scuba bubble badge’ and a cluster on his ribbon rack are all fake, it’s probably a minor case, except it’s even more aggravated when done by a Special Operations soldier who tells lies like this and get others involved in telling the lies,” he said.

If Bird’s Bronze Star with Valor device wasn’t actually earned, then Lustick calls it “a clear case of stolen valor and it’s no wonder why members of Bird’s Green Beret Team are still talking about this several years later. It’s not an axe to grind. It would be about trying to get Bird to stop stretching the truth.”

“There is a professional culture within the Special Operations Community, which is made up of Army Green Berets and Rangers, Navy Seals, Marine Raiders, Air Force Pararescue and Combat Controllers, and other not so publicly well known operators,” Lustick explained. “They describe themselves as being ‘silent professionals’ who often shrug off individual accomplishments as a simple fulfillment of their difficult duties. This is their personal ethos that they live by all throughout their careers.”

Why did this only earn a reprimand?

After reading the General Officer Letter of Reprimand given to Bird for the 2009 incident, Lustick said that was “surprised that he being such a senior NCO with 17 years of experience, that it didn’t result in at least non-judicial punishment, which is when a commanding officer calls out the misconduct and the soldier agrees to accept punishment.”

Lustick speculates Bird only faced a letter of reprimand because there’s “a gray area” involving members of the Army National Guard regarding whether they serve in a federal or state status.

“But National Guardsmen also serve sometimes in positions with the Department of the Army or the Department of the Air Force, where they change status day by day. They become federalized for special duties or when receiving federal training and then revert back to state status,” Lustick noted.

The ‘gray area’ explained

When a National Guard member is not in a federal status, they do not automatically fall under the jurisdiction of the UCMJ.

“A senior NCO who is a Special Operator and who wears badges and ribbons he didn’t earn to embellish his record is not tolerated within the SOF community. Plus, as the letter of reprimand also says, this NCO got others to help him carry out the fraud submit a fraudulent special selection application. That’s almost always going to result in a court-martial if the person doing it is on active duty in a federal status.” Lustick explained.

It is unclear if Bird was on federal orders and, therefore, in a federal status when he received the Letter or Reprimand. If Bird had been in the National Guard in Washington at the time, then jurisdiction would have fallen to the Washington State Adjutant General, who at the time was Air Force Lt. General Frank Scoggins.

Image: A group of people in attendance at the Washington State Republican Party 2024 Convention hold up signs supporting Semi Bird as the gubernatorial candidate they wish to endorse.

A group of people in attendance at the Washington State Republican Party 2024 Convention hold up signs supporting Semi Bird as the gubernatorial candidate they wish to endorse. (Photo provided by the Semi Bird for Governor campaign)

Lustick was one of a few military prosecutors for the Washington Guard until late 2008 and says, “Bird’s name never came up. When the SOCSOUTH JAGs handled this, they apparently never reported what had happened to us.”

Political implications with Semi Bird stolen valor claims and official reprimand

Bird, a former Richland School Board Director, earned the Washington State Republican endorsement after a somewhat contentious party convention in April.

Delegates endorsed Bird over his Republican opponent, former King County Sheriff and U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert. It was an early endorsement for the party, intended to help keep Republicans focused on backing the candidate with the best chance of winning in the general.

The endorsement vote was initially called off at the convention. Party leadership said Bird “was not forthcoming” during the vetting process. It was a reference to a 1993 conviction on a federal misdemeanor charge of bank larceny. The Seattle Times reported it was connected to falsifying a credit application “with intent to steal and purloin” funds from U.S. Bank. Bird used the name and social security number of his father on the application. He said he takes full responsibility for the incident.

Delegates overturned the decision to nix the endorsement and voted to back Bird.

Will a reprimand and claims of stolen valor end the Semi Bird campaign?

It’s hard to imagine that stolen valor claims, and an admission of falsifying records to defraud the Army, won’t leave even the Semi Bird campaign supporters with questions about his conduct.

For Lustick, the letter of reprimand and Bird’s response make it clear: he can’t be trusted.

“I think it calls into question a lot of claims that he’s made about his military service. I think it calls into question about his ability to be truthful and honest. And this is not the type of person that you should trust moving forward,” Lustick said. “Because if you will put yourself in front of soldiers who have died, who have been permanently injured, who have given their lives for military service, and you’re trying to claim that you did the same thing when in reality you didn’t, that is despicable, and certainly should not be something that we overlook.”

But Bird contends he will not allow this “slander” to stop him his gubernatorial campaign.

“But here’s what’s not going to happen. I’m not going to quit. I’m not getting off the ballot. They’ve already tried to character assassinate me. So now, here’s this,” Bird said to “The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH.

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