The Native American tribal elder who became the focus of a viral social media controversy over the weekend is not a Vietnam veteran, the U.S. Marine Corps confirmed Wednesday.
Nathan Phillips, 64, spent four years in the Marine Corps Reserve and left in 1976 with the rank of private, or E-1, the Marines said in a statement providing his personal releasable information.
Previously identified as Nathaniel R. Stanard, Phillips was thrust into the national spotlight after images emerged of what appeared to be a standoff at the Lincoln Memorial between him and a group of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky.
He never deployed, but served as a refrigerator technician and anti-tank missileman; he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal the records show.
Over the weekend, images of the standoff generated immediate public outcry, with many media outlets, including this one, citing reports that Phillips was a Vietnam veteran. As fuller versions of the video of the standoff between Phillips, the high school students and a group of activists from the Black Hebrew Israelites surfaced, new questions arose about whether Phillips was a Vietnam veteran. Military Times sent a request to the Marine Corps for Phillips service record on Monday.
In past media interviews he has been described as a veteran of the Vietnam War and he had previously described himself as a “Recon ranger” who had served during “Vietnam times.”
Tara Copp is the Pentagon Bureau Chief for Military Times and author of the award-winning military nonfiction "The Warbird: Three Heroes. Two Wars. One Story."