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 Marion Jimmie “Jim” Ballinger

Marion Jimmie “Jim” Ballinger

Magazine, Logan County, Arkansas, USA
Death 28 Jan 2011 (aged 71)
Burial Salem, Marion County, Oregon, USA
Plot Block 1 Section 19 Lot 4
Memorial ID 65005966 · View Source
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SALEM - Jim was born in Magazine, Arkansas and lived his growing up years in the area of Ola and Dardenell. He was the third oldest of thirteen children.

He first entered the Arkansas National Guard at age seventeen and was there to help quell the famous school integration riots in Little Rock. He later joined the Army 101st Airborne, 25th Division, 4th Cav. He was one of the first thirteen sent to Vietnam as an Advisor on December 1959. He was later captured and was a POW there for seven months and twenty-eight days. In later years he served three years in the Oregon National Guard. He was the first to proudly raise the POW/MIA flag at the city halls of Eugene and Springfield. On April 18th, 2009 in Portland, he was inducted into the Oregon Military Hall of Fame as a POW along with 96 other POW's from various wars. It was one of the proudest days of his life.

He moved his wife and three of his children from Torrance, California to Salem in December 1971. There he became both a Journeyman Cement Mason and Carpenter until he medically retired in 1989. He was past President of the Willamette Valley Sporting Hounds Association and an active member of Salem First Presbyterian Church since 1972. He was also an active member of Pointman Ministries, Macleay chapter, Salem.

He was an avid hunter and fisherman. He enjoyed making his own fishing poles and lures. He taught fishing to his children and his grandchildren. At a young age he was a bull rider. He loved old Southern Gospel Music and for a time sang bass in a country band. Above all he loved his family.

He is survived by the love of his life, his wife Jean. They were married almost 46 years. His daughters: Debbie Schacher (Dan) and Tammy Spencer, son: Jimmie Ballinger (Louise), along with nine grandchildren: Lindsey and David Schacher, Kayla Hunter, Marine Cpl. Justin Ballinger (Sarah), Marine Cpl. Blake Ballinger (Afghanistan, Stephanie, great-grandson Jayden), Trevor Ballinger, Brittany Spencer, Thomas Spencer, Brook Spencer and great-granddaughter Carmen Spencer. He is survived by ten brothers and sisters and their families and countless friends. He is preceded in death by his parents, brothers: Jimmie Lee and Jackie Ballinger, sister Mary Jean Theman and his beloved son Duane M. Hunter whom he raised from the age of five until his sudden death at age fifty on March 22, 2010.

A Funeral Service will be held at Salem First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 2 at 1 p.m. followed by a brief reception at the church and a burial service at Belcrest with Military Honors. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the USO or the Veteran organization of your choice. Arrangements by Howell-Edwards-Doerksen Funeral Home.

Published in the Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal on February 1, 2011.
False claims of military service harm real veterans
An obituary that was published earlier this week in this newspaper, containing false claims of military service for a Salem man, has local veterans and veterans organizations up in arms.

Marion Jimmie Ballinger, who died Jan. 28, was not a Vietnam prisoner of war. He did not serve in the Vietnam War. He was not with the Army's 101st Airborne.

I have in front of me a copy of his official military records, which are posted on a website that exposes phony POWs, and it is our obligation to set the record straight.

Our obits are essentially paid advertisements. We don't vet them. They are written by the family with help from the funeral home handling arrangements.

Friends of Ballinger's family, including veterans who attend the same church, pleaded with his wife to not include the claims which they helped prove false. They showed her a copy of his actual military records.

So you can imagine their disappointment when they read the obit on Page 4C of Tuesday's Statesman Journal.

"I feel offended that the family decided to stick with the denial, with the story, the fairy tale as it's called online," retired Air Force Maj. Wes Carter said. "This man stole from me, my valor."

For the record, Ballinger's wife, Jean, is a former employee of the Statesman Journal. She worked in the business office for more than seven years in the 1990s.

In seeking comment from the family, I spoke to Jim Ballinger, their son.

"The only thing that we can tell you is what he told our mother," said the son, who lives out of state. "What you've got in your obit is exactly what my dad told and confided in my mom."

In some ways, they were duped, too, which makes this a really sad story.

Who knows why his father made these claims? He obviously lived these lies for many years, sharing his war stories with who knows how many people, how many times.

"Probably in his declining years he knew it to be true in his head," Carter said.

Carter, who lives in McMinnville, was one of the veterans who discovered the truth about Ballinger's military service. Al Lake, retired Lt. Col. from the Army Reserves, did research to confirm it.

To a civilian, Ballinger's bogus boasts might be comparable to lying on a résumé or exaggerating credentials to get a job. But to veterans, this is so much more serious.

"For a military person, this ranks right up there," said Lake, who lives in Salem. "I mean, this is right next to going out and shooting your officer. This is really, really bad.

"This is worse, from my standpoint, than somebody dressing up as a police officer, and that is against the law. This is more egregious. There are a lot of people that have died for the privilege of being in military service and have served our country honorably.

"Under the Stolen Valor Act, this is actually stealing from someone who has earned it. He's reached into a grave someplace and taken something away from someone who earned it."

It is a federal offense to lie, either orally or in writing, about having received a military medal or service badge.

Ballinger was known to wear a black vest with miniature replicas of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals, and a patch that lists those decorations and other citations. (Photographs are on the "phonies" website.)

In the "Decorations and Awards" section of Ballinger's actual military records, there is only one entry: "Expert Badge w/ Rifle M-16."

Making false claims of military awards and service is not uncommon. There is an epidemic of impostors — often referred to as wannabes — and many are being exposed.

"I think it's disgusting and it harms the reputation of every veteran," said Ron Morgan, the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 271 in Salem. "These liars and wannabes that are claiming to have served in Vietnam, basically they're cowards."

Before Morgan joined the organization, more than 10 years ago, the chapter was reeling when two members who claimed they were Vietnam POWs were revealed to be frauds. One hadn't served in the military at all. The chapter now requires a copy of a veteran's DD-214 — discharge and separation papers from the military — with an application.

Groups of veterans and military researches are vigilant and aggressive about exposing fraud. One group, the POW Network, has gathered information from a variety sources to build a database of military impostors. Ballinger is in that database.

Retired Navy Capt. Mike McGrath, who is involved with the project and is a Vietnam POW himself, posted this in the entry about Ballinger:

"People ask me why folks do this sort of thing. After looking at thousands of cases I can only conclude that they all have low self esteem. Some do it for sympathy, some to make hits on girls in a bar, some to impress their co-workers and friends, and some to help them commit fraud. Some are desperate for some security as they get older. They probably do not have medical insurance, and they try to fool the VA …"

Ballinger's lies were uncovered a couple of years ago when he became ill, couldn't afford medical care, and friends tried to help the family find out if he was eligible for veterans health benefits.

These friends went to his church, they were fellow veterans, and they tried to get him to come clean.

"He stopped coming to church after that and stopped talking to us," Lake said. "It was pretty sad."

Lake chose not to the attend Ballinger's funeral. Carter did attend, but not in uniform.

Carter said the eulogy was filled with the same false claims as the obit, and then some. Ballinger was described as a drill instructor (his records list him as a wheel mechanic, rifleman and scout driver) and as someone who carried out secret missions in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand (his records show he was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., and in Hawaii.)

"This is taking the lie and just embellishing it something awful," Lake said. "I'm not willing to stand by and say, 'Oh, that's OK, he was a really nice guy,' because he was a liar. That's the bottom line."

According to his actual military records, Ballinger first joined the Arkansas National Guard. That part was true in the obit. But nowhere in his records is the 101st Airborne, one of the most prestigious and decorated divisions in the U.S. Army, ever mentioned.

Ballinger was a soldier, but he was never a POW. His name is not on the official Department of Defense list for Vietnam POWS. There are 661 names on that list, including a man with a similar last name, Orville R. Ballenger.

Even so, Ballinger was inducted to the Oregon Military Hall of Fame in the spring of 2008, along with 95 other POWs. He was just one of three Vietnam POWS in the group. Officials later were alerted to Ballinger's false claims, and his name has since been expunged from the hall of fame.

"We've been burned and embarrassed along with all the veterans organizations," said Ken Buckles, the director of the nonprofit Remembering America's Heroes, which sponsors the hall of fame. "This is the third gentleman we've had to remove."

I noticed among the survivors in Ballinger's obituary that he has two grandsons listed as Marine corporals. One just returned from Afghanistan, according to their father, and the other is headed there.

"I hate to see the family embarrassed, because it's not their fault," said Morgan, the president of the local Vietnam Veterans chapter. "But it is sort of their fault if they perpetuate the lies."
- The above article, written by Capi Lynn, was published in the Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal on Feb. 6, 2011. The online version of the article included links to Mr. Ballinger's military records, which can be found here:

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  • Created by: Dr. John
  • Added: 1 Feb 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 65005966
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Marion Jimmie “Jim” Ballinger (3 Jul 1939–28 Jan 2011), Find A Grave Memorial no. 65005966, citing Belcrest Memorial Park, Salem, Marion County, Oregon, USA ; Maintained by Dr. John (contributor 47154799) .