NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Veterans in Westchester County say they feel betrayed and angered.
They're upset about a man who has claimed to be a highly decorated military officer for years and he's not, reports CBS 2's Kathryn Brown.
Seen marching proudly as grand marshal in the New Rochelle Memorial Day parade was Brig. Gen. Fermijon Marrero, a highly decorated member of the military and the community.
But as it turns out, Marrero is no general at all.
Records show he was discharged from the military in 1976 as a private, but he's spent the last several years active in veterans groups around the state, masquerading as a top-ranking military intelligence officer.
"Initial reaction is this guy's a scoundrel and from what else was dug up on him he's been a scoundrel all his life," said Thomas O'Keefe, Post Commander at American Legion Post 8.
O'Keefe commands the New Rochelle American Legion and said Marrero fooled everyone with a fancy uniform and stories of escaping from a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam.
"He mentioned he was chained in a tiger cage to a Marine," O'Keefe said.
"He gave us a story that I thought was incredible and really brought tears to my eyes when I think of the things he told me," added Peter Parente of the United Veterans of New Rochelle.
But Marrero's story started to unravel recently. He was invited to a veterans function, but apparently could not produce the right documentation proving who he was. According to O'Keefe, Marrero doesn't have a DD Form 214.
"If you don't have a DD 214 you're not a veteran," O'Keefe said.
CBS 2's Brown confronted Marrero on Thursday.
Brown: "You are not a brigadier general?"
Marrero: "I am not a brigadier general. I am NOT a brigadier general!"
Marrero admitted to the farce, saying instead he is actually a general with the Army Cadets. That is not an official rank, but an honorary title. However, Col. Joseph Land, who oversees the Cadets, told CBS 2 on Thursday night that Marrero's claims are false. He's apparently no general of any kind.
Marrero said he pretended to be a one-star general because he liked the adulation.
Marrero: "It felt good."
Brown: "It felt good?"
Brown: "How did they treat you?"
Brown: "One guy called you a scoundrel. He said you are a disgrace."
Marrero: "He can go to hell for all I care!"
Brown: "Do you understand how they could feel?"
Marrero: "Yes, I understand how they could feel ... betrayed or something like that."
Brown: "Do you understand?"
Marrero: "Yes, I understand."
"This is obviously a betrayal to the most sacred of all our patriots, especially MIAs and POWs," said Ron Tocci, a former state legislator and chairman of the Veterans Committee.
Marrero told Brown he loves his country, but the veterans he fooled call him a disgrace to the uniform.
"He can go where the sun doesn't shine, and I'd like to be the one to close the door," O'Keefe said.
Veterans said they did not do a background check on Marrero because they didn't want to question the rank of a general. They said in the future, they will.
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