Con Man's Son Serves Honorably
(January 8, 2011)
Army Pfc. Bruce S. Simms
provides security from his fighting position on
a mountainside overlooking Afghanistan's Ganjgal
Valley, Dec. 11, 2010.
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 5, 2011 – For 10 years he
sat behind a desk as an investment banker and managed more
than $100 million in assets.
He also dreamed of getting out from behind that desk.
"I thought about it every day honestly," said Army Pfc.
Bruce S. Simms, a 34-year-old rifleman. "At the bank, I
would sit behind the desk and think about wanting to be [in
the Army] every day for 10 years."
Simms shrugged off the shackles of the investment-banking
world and the generous pay that goes with it to become an
infantryman assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's
Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry
Regiment, Task Force No Slack, 1st Brigade
He now lives on a small, spartan combat outpost in eastern
Afghanistan's Kunar province.|
"I'm just a common American who loves his country and wants
to see great things come from our country," Simms said while
resting a bruised leg in his room at Combat Outpost
Fortress. He had just returned from a two-day mission in the
mountains bordering Pakistan where he slipped and injured
his leg. But that didn't stop him from completing the
operation with his unit.
"My dad taught me as a kid that you can do whatever it is
you want to do," Simms said. "Whenever an obstacle presents
itself, take a step back, change your direction of battle,
regroup and go back and attack the target again."
Simms readjusted the ice pack on his ankle and continued.
"Growing up, my dad was kind of a hero to me, so I wanted to
follow in his footsteps and avoid some of the mistakes that
he made," he said.
He laughed nervously when asked for elaboration.
"That would be getting into a whole different story,” he
said. “You have no idea of what you're digging up right now.
The Army knows all about him."
He hefted his wounded leg out of bed and motioned for his
visitor to follow him outside to a bunker to explain who his
Simms said he actually had eight different fathers as he
grew up. Their names were Wayne Simms, Kenny Tyler, Thomas
Michael Lamar, Brandon Lee Bailey, David Auni, Michael
Simms, Robert Simms and Paul Robert Ritter. He now knows him
as one man -- David Michael Pecard.
"My dad was a very dishonorable man, but a very honorable
man at the same time. It's very weird," Simms said. "The
guy, for lack of a better word, was a crook."
Simms' father had a plethora of jobs from police officer to
emergency room technician to soldier. In fact, his father
enlisted in the Army at the age of 14 to fight in Vietnam.
After fellow soldiers discovered his real age, Simms' father
was sent back home. Within a few months, he rejoined the
Army. In 1974, he married Susan Kwon and took her to
America, but disappeared when their second child was 6 days
old. Simms' said his father drifted back into his life
occasionally throughout his childhood, but never stayed for
long. He had other families to visit.
"He's had like eight different wives across different
countries," the soldier explained with a laugh.
"David Pecard is probably one of the biggest con men in the
United States," Simms said. "Actually, he went on record as
probably being the biggest one, unfortunately."
Not only did Pecard fraudulently join the military at 14,
then again at 17 with different aliases, but joined it five
more times for a total of seven different identities.
Pecard described himself as the Robin Hood of con men. For
example, he helped to put criminals behind bars when he
worked as a fake military attache to the Maricopa County
Police Department in Arizona.
"In my opinion, although he did serve his country, it was a
dishonorable thing to defraud his government like that,"
said Simms, adding that he wanted to try to bring honor to
his family with his own enlistment.
"I know it's a clich� that the family name doesn't mean much
to some, but to me it does. Maybe I'm a little old fashioned
that way," Simms said. "I didn't join the military [for]
money for college. I've been to college. I joined not
because I needed a better salary. I took probably about a 60
percent pay cut to serve. I joined because I wanted to serve
my country honorably."
But the process to serve honorably wasn't easy, he added.
"When I was younger, being like dad, I made a stupid
mistake," he acknowledged. "I stole some money from a job I
had, and fortunately, got arrested for it."
Though Simms later had his misdemeanor expunged, sealed and
erased by the court, the Army Recruiting Command saw things
differently. Because the amount stolen was more than $500,
the Uniform Code of Military Justice viewed it as a felony.
Though Simms had managed more than $100 million as an
investment banker and had graduated from Newburgh
Theological Seminary and College of the Bible to become a
pastor, his credibility was under question, he said.
"So I went back to Chicago, had the case reopened and had
the case changed from guilty to not guilty," he said. "After
several months, I still didn't hear an answer and wanted to
know who I needed to talk to.
Simms was told that the recruiting command's commanding
general had denied his request to enlist. Simms said he then
submitted a packet directly to the general, who a few weeks
later flew into town to meet with him and his wife over
"The [general] wanted to know why I wanted to serve so badly
and why I didn't give up and why I didn't quit," Simms said.
"I told him, 'The same amount of effort I put into wanting
to join the military is the same amount I'll put into being
a good soldier.'
"And that's really what I wanted to do," he continued. "Not
just come in and be a soldier, but be a good soldier and
contribute to our country and our war effort here in
The next day, Simms got a call from his recruiter to sign a
"I wanted to come in and serve, and it didn't matter how,"
Simms said. "If the Army needed someone to come in and clean
toilets, then guess what, I would have come in and cleaned
toilets just so I can serve our country in a time of war.
And that's really the honest-to-God reason why I'm here."
Simms shuffled his weight off his injured leg inside the
tiny bunker and laughed again. He smiled and then stared off
into the distance at a pile of sandbags.
"As a kid, I'd run all the time," he finally said.
"Constantly, all the time, I'd run. I was running probably a
good 20 miles a week, sometimes 30 miles a week. There's no
question when I came to basic training at 34 years old, I
was running circles around these guys, because I kept
running. I even ran the Los Angeles Marathon."
Running is in his blood, he explained.
"When I was a kid, [my father would] come around and we'd
run," Simms said.
But no matter how far or how fast his father ran, the law
and the Army eventually caught up to him. In 1996, he was
sent to prison. After a couple of years, he filed a motion
to dismiss his case, helped in his own representation, and
"When I say it's been an incredible journey, it's been an
incredible journey," Simms said.
Article and photo by Army SSgt. Mark Burrell|
Task Force Bastogne
American Forces Press Service
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