ATLANTA -- A Veteran's Day parade float struck by a train in Texas last November is in the news again, because of questions being raised about the military record of a former Holly Springs police officer.
Shane Ladner was being honored as a wounded war vet and his wife Meg was with him on the float. She lost a leg in the accident.
In January we received a tip from someone, who wants to remain anonymous, to look into Ladner's claims that he had received a Purple Heart. It's awarded to those wounded in combat. We spent 3 months researching and found conflicting evidence.
We treaded carefully because the military told us mistakes can happen and we knew Ladner's wife was going through a terrible time. Now Ladner's former employer, the Holly Springs Police Department, has sent us a statement from the chief saying:
'We are aware of the allegations of false documents against Shane Lander and are working with other jurisdictions that would have the authority to bring forward potential criminal charges."
"I'm doing well. Better than I expected I'm told," Meg Ladner said in an exclusive bedside interview with 11Alive news earlier this year.
She recounted what happened in Midland Texas last year - on a float with her husband Shane - being honored by the group Show of Support On its website the group honors 'those injured in service to our country'.
"I've always been prepared for me in that bed due to the career choices I have made in my life," Shane Ladner said in an interview after the accident.
However, has Shane Ladner always been forthright?
During the interview with his wife, 11Alive reporter Duffie Dixon stoped to confirm with Ladner, off camera, the number of Purple Hearts he'd been awarded. He indicated two.
"He indicated to me he had two Purple Hearts, he held up two fingers," Dixon said.
Later in a follow up text message Duffie asks Ladner "Where did you serve and when did you get the Purple Hearts?"
The response: "I served in central and south America. North Africa and the middle east. 1989, 1993 -which appear to indicate the years he got the Purple Hearts.
He also provided 11Alive with a military form called a DD214 from his discharge from the National Guard. It indicates he received a Purple Heart.
However, a Freedom of Information request, to the National Archives, for Ladner's service record tells a different story. It lists no Purple Hearts. Also a records request made to Army Human Resources Command, in Fort Knox, showed no Purple Hearts.
In fact, in the year Ladner indicated in the text message, 1989, the Army record shows it was not on active duty. The Army said he had enlisted in August of 1989 but had delayed entry and didn't start active duty until 1990. He was in active duty from 1990 to 1994 and then with the Georgia National guard from 1999 to 2005. The National Guard had no records of Purple Hearts either.
The only foreign country deployment that was indicated in the official record was to Honduras in December of 1990. The Army confirmed it was for 1 year. No records exist for North Africa and the Middle East, as Ladner told us. However, the military also told us they can make mistakes and records can be missing so they could not confirm for sure.
When we looked at Ladner's biography on 'Show of Support's' website, it states in 1989 that Ladner was part of 'Operation Just Cause' in Panama and quote; "soon I found myself in a war zone". The bio states Ladner was wounded from a grenade. According to Army records Ladner was not even active duty at that time.
The Ladners were selected by 'Show of Support' to be honored and given a free hunting trip to honor wounded vets but told 11Alive news that having a Purple Heart wasn't necessary a requirement to be there and that it was an internal decision as to who would be invited.
We reached out to Shane Ladner at the end of February to clear up the records for us and he said he would provide us with the certificate that came with his Purple Heart. He said his mother had it and he would try to get it for us. We haven't received it.
We followed up with more questions and got a call from his attorney, Kevin Glasheen, who has now provided 11Alive with a statement saying that Ladner was wounded during a grenade attack during drug interdiction tactics in Central America.
He states: 'Shane was instructed to say he suffered wounds during Operation Just Cause', because of the sensitive nature of the drug interdiction while stationed in Honduras.
Glasheen says he has requested medical records from the hospital in Panama and stated the Army records are incomplete. They are now trying to get other records from Ladner's last posting in Fort Benning.
We have no evidence that Shane Ladner falsified any documents. The military admits mistakes can happen but that it's up to the individual to help fix them. They said Ladner should reach out to them to do that.