'America's Got Talent' contestant says he believed he was injured in war

In this photo provided by NBCUniversal, Timothy Michael Poe appears on "America's Got Talent." Poe, who claimed to have been injured while with the Minnesota National Guard, won't be advancing on "America's Got Talent."

MINNEAPOLIS — A soldier-turned-TV contestant whose claims of being injured in battle were dismissed by military officials says he believed he was telling the truth, but he doesn't know what is real.

Timothy Michael Poe appeared on Monday's episode of the NBC show "America's Got Talent," claiming he was injured by a grenade in Afghanistan in 2009, though Minnesota National Guard records don't support his claims.

Poe, who now lives in Texas, cried in portions of an interview aired Friday on WFAA-TV in Dallas. He told the station he doesn't know why he "believed things that happened to me, and they might not have?"

Poe won over the crowd and celebrity judges on the talent show with a moving story about how he blocked a grenade blast to save his buddies. He said the blast broke his back and left him with a brain injury.

The National Guard has said military records show Poe wasn't injured in combat in Afghanistan, and he has been criticized — especially by veterans — since he made his injury claims.


Poe also provided a photo to the NBC talent show of a soldier he passed off as himself, though the photo actually shows Staff Sgt. Norman Bone in Afghanistan in 2006. Bone said Friday that Poe's alleged lies disrespect all men and women who've served in the military, and he called Poe's actions "completely wrong."

Poe's fiancée, Carrie Morris, has said Poe accidentally submitted the photo because he was rushed. Poe has declined requests for interviews from The Associated Press.

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", including 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.

According to a 2005 Post-Bulletin story, a September 16 concert that year at Kathy's Pub in Rochester was to serve as a special going away party for Poe, a U.S. Army Reserves member. Poe was being deployed to Iraq the next day, the story said.

The Minnesota Army National Guard has issued statements contradicting the account Poe gave on the TV 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.

"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 and was 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 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 fiancee, 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 no official records show 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.

Conroy told the AP that Poe broke his back in November 2005 in Mississippi and was treated at Fort Benning in Georgia until March 2006, when he returned to Minnesota for back surgery. She said Poe was in Afghanistan for a short time in 2009, then went to Germany for medical treatment.

The ex-wife said she got "very conflicting stories" from him and people in his unit about what he was treated for. She says Poe told her a rocket-propelled grenade had gone off near his convoy, while people in his unit told her Poe was never hurt in battle and instead had been injured during a training exercise before he went to Afghanistan and then experienced symptoms of the same problem while deployed.

"It was a complete accident," Morris said. Morris said Poe "feels like America is turning their back on him" and that it's hard for her to listen to all the attacks.


"It's hard. I'm about to marry this man," Morris said. "He is a good father. He is a good man. He is a good friend."

Nick Colgin, a medic who earned a Bronze Star for valor during his 15-month deployment in Afghanistan, said fabricated tales of heroism dishonor other veterans whose service goes unnoticed.

"There's 2.4 million veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and for someone to go on national TV and bring disrespect to them and their service — it's inexcusable," said Colgin, who came home in 2008 with a brain injury after a rocket-propelled grenade hit the side of his Humvee.

John Kriesel served in Iraq until a roadside bomb hit his Humvee, killing two of his buddies and costing him both of his legs.

"He was a veteran. He has nothing to make up. Being a veteran is honorable," Kriesel said. "Why lie about what you've done?"

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