Wisconsin Legion commander says husband lied about military service

Stolen valor case rocks veterans group
Wisconsin Legion commander says husband lied about military service
The American Legion Department of Wisconsin
Laurell M. Clewell

The commander of the Wisconsin Department of the American Legion said her husband lied to her about his military service and she had no idea he didn’t fight in Vietnam or that he was wearing pins and badges he didn’t earn.

In a statement emailed to News 3, Laurel Clewell wrote she learned this week that her husband had “been holding a deep, dark and damning secret for over 50 years.”

Howard Gordon Clewell resigned from his position as the organization’s historian after being confronted with evidence his actual service did not match what he claimed. His wife, who oversees the 54,000 veterans in the Wisconsin Department of the American Legion, insists she had no idea that he was not supposed to be wearing a Special Forces Pin, an Army Ranger tab, a Combat Infantryman Badge and Master Parachutist Wings.

“(He) had built a stellar veteran career on a foundation of lies–that he had not only fought in Vietnam in Special Forces but that he had received medals for his heroics,” she wrote. “ALL lies and he finally admitted he has been lying since high school.”

Commander of @WIlegion speaks to @WISCTV_News3 about husband’s #STOLENvalor case. Her response is coming shortly to @channel_3000. It’s a WOW.

— Adam Schrager (@aschrager) June 15, 2018

“Howard Clewell was actually an Army veteran who was stationed in Germany as a caseworker. He dropped this bomb, packed his bags and walked out of our lives.”

Numerous pictures were turned in to the Legion showing evidence of the pins and badges, as was Howard Clewell’s military service record, which is publicly available under a Freedom of Information Act request. Amber Nikolai, the Department Adjutant, of The American Legion in Wisconsin, wrote in an email to News 3 that she was unaware of any criminal investigation into Clewell’s actions.

Since July 2015, it’s been illegal in Wisconsin to falsely claim military service or honors for any personal gain. The American Legion was among the groups lobbying for the passage of Wisconsin’s Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Laurel Clewell, meanwhile, said any assertion she “should have known” is misguided and that she’s disappointed by how she’s been treated within Legion circles, even by her mentors, as a result. She said she has been fighting cancer this year and that battle gives her the strength to persevere.

“(His) deceit and lies have affected my kids, grandkids, family and friends,” she wrote. “I will never recover from the lies and the disrespect that Howard has shown the veterans who work hard to accomplish what he has stolen.

“In the end, all I have is the truth. I’ve survived cancer this year, a difficult work environment and now the epic lies of a life partner. At this point, I don’t much care who believes me. I’ll live.”