Official Response to Allegations
Military with PTSD Inc. and the Gourley’s (Plaintiffs) have concluded its Federal Lawsuit directly relating to these accusations. On February 12, 2018, the United States District Court Southern District of Indiana conducted a prove-up hearing to determine the amount of damages and to establish the truth of Plaintiff’s allegations. On May 8 2018, the court entered judgement in favor of the Plaintiffs against the Defendants as follows:
Count 1 – Lanham Act Violations: Judgment in favor of Plaintiff MPI (MWPTSD) against Defendants for false advertising and false endorsement in violation of section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.
Count 2 – Copyright Act Violations: Judgment in favor of Plaintiffs’ Shawn Jaclyn Gourley and Justin Gourley against Defendants for copyright infringement in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 106(4) and 501(a) of the 1976 Copyright Act.
Count 4 – Defamation Judgment in favor of all Plaintiffs against Defendants for defamation per se under Indiana law.
Once the judgement becomes final, we will post the court documents here as well.
Previous response to Allegations
Military with PTSD and its Board of Directors has endured numerous blatantly false allegations since 2013. These egregious allegations range from financial mismanagement, to embellishment of military service, to fraud. Multiple investigations have been conducted by various government agencies, as well as GlobalGiving. None of the investigations thus far have found any wrongdoing on the part of Justin and Shawn Gourley. Third party documentation (see links below), clearly substantiates the evidence submitted by the Gourley’s. Furthermore, all donated funds are accounted for and allocated. The Gourley’s commitment to the success of the organization is illustrated by their personal financial statements.
All of these allegations have previously been addressed as precisely as possible without bringing harm to ourselves, the organization, or any potential litigation. Every individual at Military with PTSD has endeavored consistently to advance the work for which we are organized to do. Our focus remains on educating veterans and their families while refusing to be sidetracked by patently false allegations. However, we do take these allegations seriously.
First, we’d like to address the allegation of financial fraud. This includes the differences between our End-of-Year report and our official Tax Statement. Our end-of-year report was created to show our donors how their cash donations directly impacted veterans and their families. Our official tax statement shows all of our financial information, which includes any and all types of income or benefits. The IRS insists that any services or goods received by a non-profit be assigned a cash value, labeling them as “Gift-In-Kind”. Basically, gift-in-kind are donations of tangible and intangible personal property and contributions of services. Tangible gift-in-kind include clothing, furniture, equipment, inventory, and supplies, among other things. Intangible gift-in-kind include contributions of advertising, patents, royalties, and copyrights. Gift-in-kind can also include things such as discounted rent. Services provided include legal, accounting, plumbing, nursing, physicians, and other professional services. As a board, Military with PTSD felt that it was important to highlight the direct impact of our donors’ generosity, because, without their support, our impact would have been severely diminished. The gift-in-kind, such as the advertising grant from Google, may have allowed more supporters and donors to find us, but the grant itself had no tangible impact on our programs. The entire explanation can be found here: Financials
Second, we’d like to address the allegations against our Co-Founder, Justin Gourley. The allegation is that Justin embellished or outright altered his military service record for personal gain akin to committing stolen valor. This allegation is especially egregious to us personally. Justin honorably served our country from June 30, 2000 to June 28, 2004. Justin was awarded two Navy E Ribbon’s, a National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons. However, Justin’s military and VA record clearly document that Justin had three OEF/OIF conflict deployment periods: first, 06/2002 to 12/2002; second, 01/2003 to 02/2003; and, third, 01/2004 to 06/2004. Additionally, Justin also had three periods where he received combat pay: first, 11/2000 to 12/2000; second, 07/2002 to 12/2002; and, third, 04/2004 to 05/2004. Finally, Justin had three periods of Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay: first, 11/2000 to 11/2000; second, 07/2002 to 09/2002; and, third 04/2004 to 05/2004.
Justin’s DD-214 lists his primary specialty as an Operational Specialist (OS). The Navy’s Operation Specialist Job Description states, “Operation Specialist provide to the command technical information and assistance related to Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Amphibious Warfare, Mine Warfare, Naval Gunfire Support, and search and rescue operations, and other matters pertaining to the Operations Specialist’s area.” Knowing that each branch has a different way of recording duty assignments and job titles, one can see how misunderstandings between a job duty and an occupational code could happen. For instance, the Army uses MOS to describe a job (i.e., 92G, food service specialist) while the Navy uses Rank (i.e., CS, culinary specialist). These differences can be greatly confusing to anyone unfamiliar with the various military branches. There are also certain details that many civilians may not attribute the correct amount of importance to, such as the difference between the flight deck and mess deck. To a sailor, those differences are critical to everyday operations, but a civilian with no military experience may consider them interchangeable. This exact circumstance happened to Justin’s wife, Shawn, while she was writing, “The War at Home.”
It is important to note that Shawn J. Gourley is the author of “The War at Home,” not Justin. The story alternates back and forth, showing each of their perspectives. Shawn kept a journal and was an avid note taker during Justin’s treatment, especially in regard to Justin’s perspective on their marriage. Those notebooks became the source for much of the content on Justin’s side. While Shawn had documented Justin’s words, it was her interpretation of the content and of what Justin had told her that was written in the book. Initially, the book was very brief. Upon reviewing the content, one is able to clearly see that misinterpretations had been made while writing the full story. For example, this is depicted in the initial free publication. In the 2010 edition, Shawn states, “On September 11, 2003, during a F/18 arrested landing, the arresting gear snapped back across the deck of the USS George Washington injuring several crew members. Justin had to secure the area where the injured crew members would be treated and assist in keeping them calm.” What Shawn originally wrote does not place Justin on a specific deck. To clarify Justin’s location, the USS George Washington’s Guardian Article contains key details. The following comes directly from the Guardian Article: “Although Scheer commended all his troops, the actions of OS3 Justin Gourley stood out in his mind. “OS3 is normally an easy-going, quiet type of person,” Scheer explained, “but he completely stepped up to the plate (on Thursday) and took charge by securing the mess decks, pulling hoses and maintain this watch” Gourley doesn’t think of his actions as extraordinary; he was just doing what he been trained to do. “Basically, I was just doing my job,” said Gourley, who was positioned near the battle dressing station on the aft mess decks. [Justin Gourley concluded], “We have been prepared for situations like this and it becomes second nature. The procedures are the same whether it is a drill or the real thing.” In addition to the above article, we can add an article from Navy.mil, which states: “Aboard GW, Strafford is responsible for the ship’s Mass Casualty Staging Team and Aft Battle Dressing Station. It was under (Lt.) Strafford’s leadership where these two entities shined at the critical moment. “Both stations performed flawlessly during exercises and the September flight deck mass casualty, directly saving fellow shipmates,” (Cmdr Andrew) Nelson said.” So to put these two together, Justin’s duty station at the time of the mass casualty was near the battle dressing station on the aft mess deck, which in turn was under the charge of Lt. Strafford, thus confirming Justin was in the exact area the wounded were taken. It is to be noted that Strafford later received the 2003 NAPA Leadership Award.
In 2002, Justin was temporarily assigned to the Security Division on the USS Gorge Washington (CVN 73). Justin’s job during his temporary assignment was anti-terrorism/force protection (AT/FP) and his duties consisted of a Security Armorer and Rapid Response Team Leader according to his military record. Upon reviewing other outside sources, it is clear that during Gourley’s service, the job in which he was temporarily assigned to, was something new the Navy started implementing. Gourley’s security training, Armed Sentry Course A-830-0033 (See top of pg. 134), was completed in Norfolk, VA. with a company called, Automation Precision Technology LLC. In 2001. the Navy contracted the company, specifically for massive expansion of the Navy Security Force. The Virginia school was one of three schools created, in addition to the main school at Lackland Airforce Base. Last year, the article 2015 outlook: Master-at-arms ranks to grow, highlights the switch in the Navy to require all security forces on aircraft carriers to be rated MAs (Master-At-Arms), instead of sailors from other departments who are temporarily assigned. It has been common practice, since the beginning of this program, for sailors who are temporarily assigned and have no previous training to become part of the Security Team on their ship. Finally, Gourley Letter of Recommendation from Security Officer Keith A. Tukes confirms his job during the temporary assignment stating, “Mr. Gourley faithfully and excellently performed his duties as a Security Armorer and Response Team Leader, while assigned to the U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Carrier USS GEORGE WASHINGTON.” Tukes goes on to state, “As the Response Team Leader, Gourley trained his team professionally making certain that they completed each task without incident. His thorough supervision resulted in USS GEORGE WASHINGTON achieving a reputation as one of the best security commands in the Navy.”
The final issue we would like to address relating to Justin Gourley’s military service is the incident of the airman who lost his life aboard the USS George Washington. Sadly, what has been shared and posted on the internet is a draft of Shawn J. Gourley’s writing about the incident, that was never published. The draft was shared without Shawn’s knowledge or consent in what appears to be a malicious attempt to cause emotional distress or harm. Shawn and her publisher initially used a blog to write and edit. When Justin reviewed the draft, he immediately told Shawn that she misunderstood the events of the incident. The section about the airman’s accident was rewritten before the publisher convened a small group of civilian reviewers to give feedback on the ease of understanding of the first chapter. Revisions were made after multiple feedback sessions. Prior to the final revision, Shawn and the publisher agreed to omit non-pertinent details out of respect for the Airman and his family. In the end, a total of seven sentences covered the incident in the published book. It is important to note that a specific paragraph was added to the disclaimer addressing this issue.
“The War At Home,” was written from the alternating perspectives of Shawn and Justin Gourley. The focus of the story was the Gourley’s life after Justin’s return home from his Naval duties and the struggles their marriage faced in trying to reintegrate Justin back to civilian life. In an attempt to overcome these challenges, Shawn looked for others who lived this life as she did. What she realized was that many families struggled with reconnecting due to the spouses not understanding their military family members’ perception. At that time, it was decided to write the full book showing both Shawn and Justin’s point of view, in an attempt to help educate other couples. It was written so that everyone, including civilians without extensive knowledge of the military, could understand and appreciate the struggles and lessons learned. For example, it is generally easier for civilians to recognize the job title Military Police (MP), which is on Justin’s Navy uniform badge, versus his actual job of Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection. The article Navy SWAT, is just one of many articles shared in written conversation between Shawn and her publisher during the time of writing the book. Upon reviewing all of the written communication between Shawn and her publisher, it is clear that great care was taken to fact check what was being written while attempting to understand and translate what Justin was saying in such a way anyone could understand. Another aspect of the decision to keep the story easy to understand, while maintaining the purpose of the book, was that Shawn’s side would not be corrected even if the terminology that she used was incorrect. An example of this is demonstrated in the book when Shawn states that Justin had, “told her how well he had done on his sniper test.” In no way does that imply that Justin was a “sniper” or that Justin called his weapons qualification a sniper test. Shawn has no interest in guns, as such, she calls any gun with a scope a sniper gun. However, correcting Shawn’s description of details would have defeated the purpose of the “The War of Home” which was written from each of their personal perspectives.
Third-party documentation presented in the links above refute the allegations that Justin Gourley engaged in acts of stolen valor. The Stolen Valor act of 2013 clearly defines the criteria by which stolen valor is punishable by law. Furthermore, the written communications between Shawn and her publisher clearly demonstrate that Shawn had made a few misinterpretations while writing the first chapter in the book. These misinterpretations are mistakes, not intentional acts of deception or fraud. While the organization could have released this documentation years ago, the allegations of fraud, for the most part, have been directed solely at Justin and Shawn J. Gourley.