After the terrorist bombing in Boston on Monday, April 15, 30-year-old self-described recovering alcoholic Tyler Dodd (at right, above) heard the explosions and headed toward the finish line of the Boston Marathon to see if he could help.
Among the victims he comforted was injured 20-year old college student Victoria McGrath, who knew him only as “Tyler.” After Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick mentioned “Tyler” in a press conference, Dodd came forward and said he was the man who held McGrath’s hand, telling her that he, like her, had suffered a shrapnel wound from an enemy explosive.
Dodd later gave a firsthand account of the day to Esquire, describing the scene as “pure chaos,” and saying he had helped apply tourniquets and search for wounds
News organizations descended on Dodd, who told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he was an unemployed oil-rig worker who’d arrived in Boston a year before hoping to turn his life around.
The problem is, Dodd had told McGrath that he was a former soldier wounded in combat. The August before, on the streets of New York City, he told an even more elaborate tale.
As reported by Zap2it the week of the Boston bombing, Dodd turned out to be the same man who, in the summer of 2012, had encountered J.W. Cortes (at left, above), a former Marine featured in the NBC reality show “Stars Earn Stripes,” which paired military vets and first responders with celebrities on mock missions.
Cortes, now a sometime actor and a full-time officer with the New York City MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority), told Zap2it back then that Dodd — who had chased down a robbery suspect — had also claimed to be a Marine and to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Shortly after McGrath’s appeal made Dodd an instant celebrity, that story fell apart. Dodd was revealed not as a wounded veteran, but as a man struggling with substance abuse and several brushes with the law.
All this came as news to Cortes, who had initially tried to text and call Dodd, still thinking he was a fellow vet. Cortes had believed Dodd’s assertions, and not just because he liked his face.
In a conversation on Friday, April 26, Cortes tells Zap2it that he often hears people make claims about being military or law enforcement, and that he has specific questions he asks to judge the person’s veracity.
“When I met him,” says Cortes, “I asked him some of those key questions — who did he serve with, what were his tours of duty, where was he stationed, where did he get injured? He had every single answer, down to a T. It wasn’t even a second of hesitation. There wasn’t a thinking process. It was like I was asking his name, date of birth — it was that rapid.
“And that’s why I believed him. When I saw that about him, I was blown away.”
Cortes sympathizes with Dodd’s addiction issues and hopes he’s getting the treatment he needs. He also admires his willingness to help but doesn’t understand Dodd’s compulsion to embellish his past.
“The fact that he has now twice reached these levels of heroism says a lot to me,” Cortes says. “No one is perfect; we all make mistakes. I believe that we lie when we’re afraid of something. For the most part, there’s some fear behind lies.
“If he can figure out what that fear is and maybe address it through some therapy, then perhaps he and I should have a conversation once he’s figured that out, because I’d really love to hear his version of why he felt the need to lie after doing such a heroic thing. It doesn’t add up for me. It seems out of order.
“What he had done by himself was enough, more than enough, and more than some people will ever do in their lives. It’s a shame.”
Asked if he’s angry at Dodd, Cortes says, “I was disappointed. That’s the best word for me to use, is disappointed.”
Meanwhile, another victim of the bombing, Jeff Bauman, who lost both his lower legs but was able to describe one of the bombing suspects to police, got a visit from “Silver Linings Playbook” star Bradley Cooper.
At right is a picture of the moment tweeted out by New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman (in the baseball cap).
In another strange “Stars Earn Stripes” connection, Cooper is co-producing and planning to star in the movie version of former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s 2012 autobiography, “American Sniper.” Kyle was also one of the “operatives” featured on “Stars Earn Stripes,” in which he was paired with actor Dean Cain.
On Feb. 2, 2013. the same day as it happened, Zap2it reported on the Texas shooting death of Kyle, believed to have been at the hands of a military veteran he was reportedly helping deal with PTSD.
Calling Cooper’s visit to Bauman “pretty cool,” Cortes, a close friend of Kyle’s, hopes that some of the other military vets and first responders featured on “Stars Earn Stripes” could somehow be part of the movie.
“Even if we were just part of the extras,” he says, “the opportunity would be amazing, to honor Chris. I spoke to a bunch of the guys, and they said we would donate our salaries to Chris’ foundations.”