June 6, 2012 at 11:18 AM ET
Timothy Michael Poe's singing talent and his story of struggling back from a brain injury caused by a grenade in Afghanistan captivated the crowd on Monday's episode of "America's Got Talent." After just one song, Poe was already being called a favorite to win it all.
The talent appears real. But could the story be exaggerated?
The 35-year-old from San Antonio sang a pitch-perfect version of Garth Brooks' "If Tomorrow Never Comes," earning a standing ovation and the chance to continue on the NBC show. But it was his background story as well as his voice that earned him two standing ovations.
Poe explained to the audience and the judges that the slight stutter he displayed onstage was caused by a war injury caused by a grenade blast in Afghanistan.
"My (military) career was ended in 2009," Poe said. "I had got hit by a grenade in Afghanistan and it broke my back and gave me a brain injury so that's the reason why I stutter."
In a filmed segment shown over photos of Poe in military uniform, he said that he had volunteered for a team that was clearing buildings and helping with the wounded when "there was a guy who came up with a rocket-propelled grenade."
"By the time I turned and went to go jump on top of my guys, I yelled 'grenade!' and the blast had hit me," he said.
Poe also described vividly how he felt after the injury, saying, "When I was laying there I thought I'd never see my daughter walk down the aisle or throw the baseball with my son or be able to hold them and see them."
But military records don't match Poe's story, the Associated Press reports.
"Sgt. Poe’s official military records do not indicate that he was injured by a grenade in combat while serving in Afghanistan in 2009, as he reports,” Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard, said in a statement to the AP.
He also noted that there was no record of Poe receiving the Purple Heart, awarded to military members injured in enemy combat, though Poe never claimed he had the medal, the AP points out.
"We looked very closely at (Poe's) record," Olson told the AP. "We did not find something to substantiate what he said."
The AP reports that Poe served with the Minnesota Army National Guard from December 2002 through May 2011, working as a supply specialist, and was deployed in Kosovo from Oct. 10, 2007, to July 15, 2008, then served in Afghanistan for about a month in 2009.
Poe's stutter came and went onstage. He said that he didn't stutter when he sang, which was true, but celebrating after the performance with host Nick Cannon he didn't stutter once, a fact Cannon pointed out. "Oh, see that's amazing!" said Poe at the time.
NBC and Poe had no comment on the AP report.
"AGT" judge Howard Stern was impressed with Poe's talent and his tale, saying on the show, "I do want to thank you for your service in Afghanistan. I don't know what to say to a hero like you."
But Wednesday morning on his Sirius XM satellite radio show, Stern had obviously seen the reports about Poe's past.
“You never lie about your military service," he said, angrily, according to the New York Daily News. "This lie is so wrong on so many levels ... This really sickens me."
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