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Recruiter charged with wearing unearned awards

Jun. 27, 2012 - 07:11AM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 27, 2012 - 07:11AM  |  
In this frame from a news video, Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (NAC) Grady Nations is seen performing honor guard duties at a funeral.
In this frame from a news video, Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (NAC) Grady Nations is seen performing honor guard duties at a funeral. (WTVF-TV)
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A Navy Reserve recruiter and wannabe country music star has been charged with wearing the Distinguished Flying Cross and another award he didn't earn, and lying about them to investigators.

Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (NAC) Grady Wayne Nations, 43, was charged June 8 with violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for wearing a DFC and a Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon.

He wore the DFC between Jan 1, 2010, and Sept. 23, 2011, and the Coast Guard ribbon from Jan 19, 2008, to Sept. 27, 2011, the charges state.

He also is accused of lying under Article 107 for presenting the allegedly forged DFC certificate to his command "on or about Sept. 20, 2010," for inclusion in his record.

He's also accused of lying to investigators by saying he believed the certificate was valid and he was authorized to wear the award when he knew otherwise. Nations was notified of the charges June 8, Cmdr. Alvin Plexico, spokesman for Navy Recruiting Command, said. His trial is tentatively set for Aug. 13, and sources told Navy Times he could face up to 12 years confinement if convicted on all charges.

"While I do not want to speak to this specific case, I can tell you that any sailor who would wear a medal he did not earn brings discredit upon himself and dishonors his fellow shipmates," Plexico said.

Nations is currently on active duty as a Navy Reserve recruiter assigned to Navy Recruiting District Nashville, Tenn., though he's performing duties that don't put him in contact with potential recruits while he awaits trial, Plexico said.

He was on active duty for special work at the Navy Operational Support Center in Nashville as a military funeral honors coordinator when some of the alleged offenses took place.

Navy Times reached out to Nations on June 14 through Victor Kelly, a Birmingham, Ala.-based lawyer who represented Nations at his Article 32 hearing April 24 in Great Lakes, Ill.

Kelly said he had not been retained by Nations for the court-martial and wasn't authorized to speak on Nations' behalf about the matter. He said he would offer the chance to comment to Nations, but did not respond as of press time.

Not only did Nations allegedly submit the forged DFC certificate to his superiors, they apparently approved it and sent it on to Navy Personnel Command, where it was included in his permanent service record.

NPC officials said quality control of documents lies with the submitting commands, though they do investigate when the authenticity of records is in question.

As of Jan. 14, the certificate was no longer in Nations' records, and the DFC was not listed as an award he was authorized to wear.

Navy Times attempted to reach Cmdr. Sheryl Tannahill, NOSC Nashville's commanding officer, to discuss how the award was approved and placed in his record. Tannahill, who was also the CO when Nations' records were updated Sept. 30, 2010, declined to speak, citing the ongoing investigation.

As a result, it's unclear if the records update process was started before Tannahill relieved Cmdr. Matthew Grahl as NOSC commander in April 2010 since Nations, according to the charges, was wearing the award as early as January of that year.

Navy Times in September obtained a complete listing of Nations' awards from NPC along with a list of commands he served at on both active duty and in the Reserve. That query was made after some of Nations' shipmates at NOSC Nashville felt his stories about the DFC didn't wash.

Upon request, NPC also provided the medal certificates in his record at the time, which included not only the DFC, but one Navy Commendation Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals.

NPC normally uses a sailor's end-of-service document to prepare lists of awards service members are authorized to wear for release to the media.

It's not uncommon for such documents to include awards and qualifications that are not documented elsewhere, officials say. They stressed that it is up to the submitting commands to verify the information on those documents prior to sending them to NPC.

Because Nations' end-of-service document was updated in his permanent record at the same time the allegedly forged DFC certificate was put there, a number of other awards listed on that document that don't have other substantiating entries were called into question. Officials wouldn't confirm whether the investigation is looking into any awards not listed in the charges.

For a year after the update, Nations freely wore the DFC ribbon and occasionally the medal until some peers at NOSC Nashville contacted Navy Times to find out whether the award was real. They knew the certificate was in his record, but no one had actually seen it — Nations, they said, held it close.

According to those sources, Nations would tell anyone who asked that his DFC was classified, awarded to him by the Air Force for action taken during a classified mission while he was on temporary duty with the Air Force in the Persian Gulf. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as they are now potential witnesses in the court-martial and didn't want to jeopardize their testimony.

At the time of the alleged DFC award, Nations was a third class petty officer at Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 40 in Norfolk, Va. The certificate cites action that took place Nov. 11, 1991, and says the award was approved Dec. 30, 1991.

There is no mention in Nations' service record that indicates he deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991, or ever, during his nearly four years at VRC-40, according to NPC.

His records show two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, both awarded during a previous assignment to Patrol Squadron 11 in Brunswick, Maine.

Only one detachment from VRC-40 was deployed to the Gulf during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. That detachment deployed with the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt at the end of December 1990, three months after Nations reported to the squadron.

In addition, the DFC certificate is made out to AO1 Grady W. Nations, a rank he didn't achieve until 2008. Also, the signatures on the certificate are those of Air Force Secretary Harold Brown and Gen. William W. Momyer, commander of the 7th Air Force. Those officials were in those respective positions in the late 1960s, during the Vietnam War.

When those facts were brought to NPC's attention, an inspector general's probe was launched that led to Nations being charged.

The Coast Guard Special Operations Ribbon he's charged with wearing wasn't on the list of Nations' authorized awards provided by the Navy. It's unclear how his alleged wearing of that ribbon came to light.

Nations has also been on the fringes of the country music business for years, according to news reports and biographies on the Web. He self-released a country album on the website CDBaby.com, which allows musicians to market their music directly to the public.

According to the website TrueCountry.com, which named Nations the "artist of the month" in May 2003, "He's earned several high-profile concert slots opening for legends like Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, George Jones, John Michael Montgomery, Sawyer Brown and the Bellamy Brothers." Ë

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