In early February, accusations of stolen valor surfaced against Columbia County Board of Education member Mike Sleeper.
Sleeper, who also happens to be the son-in-law of Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, was being called out by the website, “This Ain’t Hell: But you can see it from here,” in a blog called “Michael Sleeper, Fake Ranger.”
“We have reports of (Sleeper) claiming to have been deployed to Iraq during Desert Storm. Mike also likes to tell people he was a Ranger with the 75th Ranger Regiment during conversations. He backs up those kind of claims with pictures on his FB profile,” blogger Dave Hardin posted on the website, thisainthell.us. “It sounds like some actual Desert Storm veterans found discrepancies in his stories.”
This particular website reviews accusations of stolen valor across the country.
Posted on the blog is a document titled, “Information Releasable Under the Freedom of Information Act” about Michael Norman Sleeper.
The document states that Sleeper’s dates of active duty service are from Aug. 13, 1985 to Oct. 25, 1988.
It indicates Sleeper was discharged at the rank of Private. The document also states he was an infantryman in Alaska from Jan. 24, 1986 to October 25, 1988.
The document adds, “No record of service beyond 1988.”
“That one page alone tells us all we need to know,” Hardin wrote in his blog. “Not a Ranger. No deployment to Desert Storm and he was discharged after a few years as a Private. He spent his time in Alaska as an 11B Grunt and he was not a Ranger with the 75th Ranger Regiment. His only award listed is the Army Service Ribbon. It appears the Army got tired of dealing with Pvt. Sleeper and sent him back home early.”
The blog demanded that Sleeper address these questions surrounding his military record.
“Private Sleeper should probably come clean with some people who are under a false impression that he is something that he is not,” Hardin wrote. “Particularly the kids in his school district.”
After reviewing the documents produced by Hardin, the Metro Spirit also asked that Sleeper set the record straight.
And he didn’t.
All Sleeper told a Metro Spirit reporter was, “I recognize there are shortcomings in the military documentation of my military history and I’m attempting to have them corrected.”
Specifically, he told the Metro Spirit that he was working with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office to correct the “shortcomings” in his military record.
That was more than two months ago.
Meanwhile, the Metro Spirit also requested Sleeper’s military record and got a similar document that was almost identical to the records produced by thisainthell.us.
The records made no mention of him being a Ranger with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Since that time, Sleeper has been avoiding any questions surrounding his military record.
It’s been months.
At this point, the public has to demand that Sleeper provide some kind of evidence that he was, in fact, an Army Ranger.
Otherwise, he should step down from serving on the school board.
The only person who has publicly addressed this issue, besides the local media, is Columbia County Board of Education Chairman David Dekle.
On Feb. 14, he asked Sleeper to set the record straight.
“I received an email from an unknown individual pointing me to a website and blog post dedicated to exposing individuals who have misrepresented or embellished their military service record or claimed military honors they had not earned,” Dekle stated during the public meeting. “The email and the blog alleged that my fellow board member, Mr. Mike Sleeper, had claimed to be a former Army Ranger when, in fact, the documentation requested and received from the military through an FOIA request showed no such history. The blog showed a picture of a Ranger Tab hanging in Mr. Sleeper’s garage and a post by Mr. Sleeper where he had claimed that it was a companion to the one on his shoulder.”
Dekle said those researching Sleeper’s military history found some discrepancies.
“In contrast, the documentation posted on the website shows that Mr. Sleeper received a general discharge from the Army after two years as an infantryman while serving in Alaska. There is no mention of earning a Ranger Tab or Scroll,” Dekle said. “Initially, I viewed this as a personal matter of Mr. Sleeper’s that should be dealt with on a personal level by him and without any comment by me or involvement by the Board of Education. The following Monday, Austin Rhodes ran the story and invited Mr. Sleeper on to his show to set the record straight. Mr. Rhodes went so far as to say that if Mr. Sleeper has misrepresented his military service, he would be the first to ask him to step down from the Board. Mr. Sleeper chose not to go on the Austin Rhodes show that day and has maintained that he will not comment until he has had an opportunity to correct his military record.”
But the questions didn’t end there.
“In the past week, both the Metro Spirit and the Columbia County News-Times wrote pieces highlighting the facts which have been presented regarding his service record. These news outlets point out that Mr. Sleeper has been described in the media in the past several years as a former Army Ranger, a fact which if untrue, Mr. Sleeper has never denied or corrected,” Dekle stated. “This Board of Education has also presented Mr. Sleeper to the public as an Army Ranger in an open meeting. In recognizing our veterans on Veterans Day in 2014, we proudly displayed a photo of Mr. Sleeper in uniform identifying him as an Army Ranger. We honored him that day as a Ranger for serving our country in that capacity.”
As a result, Dekle said he had become concerned about the accuracy of Sleeper’s military history.
“So, I cannot view these allegations against a board member to be merely of a personal nature,” Dekle said. “As public servants representing this school district, we must hold ourselves to the same or higher standards that we hold our Superintendent, our employees, and our students. I am not a veteran, so I cannot truly empathize with those members and former members of our armed forces who are offended and frustrated by stolen valor. Nor am I the judge and jury in this case, so I am not saying that Mr. Sleeper has not earned one of the most difficult and prestigious awards bestowed upon our bravest and toughest soldiers. However, I do see unrefuted evidence that raises serious questions, and I see the passage of an inordinate amount of time without answers. This is not good for our school district.”
Dekle then turned directly to Sleeper and demanded answers.
“Mr. Sleeper, for the good of the Columbia County School District, I respectfully ask that you provide a full and complete explanation of your military service without further delay,” Dekle said. “Please confirm that you are in fact a former Army Ranger, having completed the necessary requirements to legitimately claim that distinction– that you did in fact earn your Ranger Tab or Scroll during your period of service. If not, please correct the record and end this distraction so that this Board may return its full attention to the business at hand.”
And what was Sleeper’s response?
“Honestly, I just at the moment, pity you,” Sleeper told Dekle. “That’s all I have to say.”
Something is pitiful, all right.
But it’s not Dekle.