News

Military record of man inurned at Tahoma National Cemetery questioned

Shortly after 1 p.m. on a misty, gray Thursday afternoon, a clutch of motorcycles driven by members of American Legion Post 78, until that point behind a police escort, roared through the gates of Tahoma Military Cemetery in Covington.

Moments later the bikes banked onto a side road, where flagpole-holding veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces were waiting.

On the back of one cycle, a green box topped by a plaque. Inside were the ashes of John Marcus Alberti, by all accounts, a Navy veteran. Alberti, a Native American, died April 19, 2014. Family members described him as a penniless recluse who had struggled for years with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The ceremony at Shelter No. 1 began with the blowing of a boatswain's whistle. Then followed speeches, a four-gun salute, and the folding of the nation's flag, which two seamen handed to Alberti's longtime girlfriend.

Later that day, cemetery workers inurned Alberti's ashes.

It had been a sendoff, said moved members of the Legion, owed Mr. Alberti by his country for his years of service, and they were happy to have put it all together.

According to records Alberti's girlfriend handed to the Legion and to the Auburn Reporter, Alberti's career had been one of extraordinary valor.

Yet, one big problem, with this story has since emerged — it now seems all but certain that Alberti's stellar service record was in part, or entirely, fabricated.

The St. Louis Web-based database that actually compiles and provides service records to the public upon written request said no person with the name of John Marcus Alberti has ever been a member of the armed forces of the United States.

But according to the form Alberti's girlfriend provided to the American Legion and the Auburn Reporter, Alberti, a U.S. Navy veteran, served his country during the Vietnam War.

According to that form, Alberti, "a Navy SEAL," had received the Navy Cross, two silver stars, a bronze star, five purple hearts, Presidential Unit citations, an individual presidential citation, a medal for special operations service, the Navy Commendation and the Military Advisor Medal.

That form enumerated wounds Alberti had allegedly received in 1959 in Vietnam Long Xuyen, in 1960 in Saigon, in 1961 at Phu Vihn, in 1963 at Danang and in 1964 at Can Tho. It said Alberti was a prisoner of war between March and October of 1962, and that President John F. Kennedy had personally decorated him.

Last Friday, the Auburn Reporter published a piece written by an Oregon man, a friend of Mr. Alberti's, titled, "The Navy SEAL Time Forgot." The article briefly described Alberti's life and detailed what its author believed to have been his friend's military achievements.

That article enraged many of the area's veterans and their supporters, who ever since have flooded the Auburn Reporter's website with angry posts questioning military achievements that seemed to them to be good to be true.

The claim that Alberti had been a Navy SEAL in the early 1960s fell under immediate suspicion because there were no SEALs until more than a decade later. At that time, those who performed the duties that are today associated with the Navy SEALs were called frogmen.

Another letter writer demanded that the Auburn Reporter "apologize to all veterans."

Mr. Alberti's ashes were removed from the cemetery Wednesday.

Requests for information from American Legion Post 78, which is said to have conducted its own investigation of this incident, were not answered by the time this issue went to press.

"The case is still under investigation," said a local veteran who is familiar with the details but asked not to be identified.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 12 edition online now. Browse the archives.