The story was ready-made for an Army public affairs splash – “hero soldier uses ingenuity, hoodie, and an ink pen to save man’s life.” The story demonstrated a willingness to act, selfless service and quick thinking, everything one expects from a non-commissioned officer in the military. Army officials called it a “good news story.”
Until it was revealed as a lie.
After extensive research by U.S. Army WTF Moments! and WTF Nation Radio, the Army confirmed today that the story published Jan. 9, detailing the heroic post-accident exploits of Sgt. Trey Troney, of Fort Bliss, TX, was a falsehood.
After providing this information to Fort bliss officials, public affairs officers quickly pulled the story from their website and Army.mil in an official statement.
“Due to factual inaccuracies, we retract “Iron Soldier saves man’s life with hoodie, ink pen” story, published Jan 9,” the statement read.
“The entire 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss team sincerely apologize to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Highway Patrol, the city of Sweetwater, Texas, the city of El Paso, the University of Texas at El Paso, the New Orleans Saints, the local and national media and the American people.”
Troney, assigned to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was making his way home to Mississippi from Fort Bliss, Texas for a holiday break when he happened upon a crashed truck on the side of the highway in Sweetwater, Texas according to the Army’s release last week. Troney supposedly wrapped his Saints hoodie around the victim’s head to control the bleeding and relieve a collapsed lung with an empty ball-point pen.
The story really took off when “Jeff Udger,” the victim in the story, wrote an email to Troney’s chain of command and local media, describing his deeds and asking he be recognized for his life-saving measures. The story took off, appearing on Army Times and Military.com, even making its way up to the national spotlight in the New York Post and on Fox News. The New Orleans Saints featured the story on their website, since one of their hoodies served as the co-star.
Here’s where things don’t add up. After talking with the local police department, two traffic accidents occurred at the location and date in question. Only one of those accidents had reported injuries.
Of those accidents, one injury was a head trauma victim named Jeff Hayes, not Jeff Udger.
After speaking with Mr. Hayes, he was able to confirm that while he doesn’t remember the accident, he knows he did not receive a chest decompression needle.
“I am a nurse of 28 years, and I have dealt with trauma. I was not decompressed, no chest tubes, no pen decompression,” Hayes said during a phone interview. “A field decompression would have placed me in the ICU and high-end monitoring, and there are no related scars or wound. I am lucky to be alive, and I am lucky to be talking.”
The police report obtained by WTF Nation Radio also confirms that no chest decompression occurred. After an interview with the local fire department., we again confirmed the facts of the police report.
The investigative team brought the findings of the investigation to the 1st Armored Division’s Public Affairs Office. Officials there attempted to contact Udger, the alleged victim, to get additional information. After a few location changes, debunked by the U.S. Army WTF Moments’ team, Udger wrote back to the unit’s public affairs team.
“My name has been plastered everywhere for the past week,” Udger said in an email. “Not once did anyone ask for my permission or my thoughts. I will not give out my phone number nor will I speak to anyone anymore. I do not want to be known on this level. Sorry for all the miscommunication through the newspaper but I am no longer entertaining the media.”
1st AD officials continued their investigation, and after speaking with the highway patrolman from the scene as well as an officer from the Sweetwater Fire Department, both confirmed they could identify Troney from the accident scene in Sweetwater – but his recollection of the actions on the scene were untrue.
Certain parts of the story are real, officials say. A bloodied hoodie seemingly belonging to Troney was at the scene covered in Hayes’ blood and tissue.
There are still some questions unresolved. Who is the person claiming to be Jeff Udger?
After exhaustive search using both public records and investigative databases “Jeff Udger” does not seem to exist anywhere in the US. Wendy Brown, a reporter for the Fort Bliss Monitor, supposedly interviewed Udger over the phone, but who did she really speak to if Udger doesn’t exist?
Why would Sgt. Troney, exaggerate actions that were already above and beyond expectations? He was interviewed about the events and gave several quotes, including a conversation with the victim while supposedly treating him.
Only an investigation will likely answer those questions. Fort Bliss officials did not make any reference to ongoing or future investigations in their statement.