Soldier amid controversy served with Albert Lea’s Delta Company

Published 3:59 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

A former Minnesota National Guard soldier who is amid controversy for claims he made while competing on the “America’s Got Talent” TV show once served with Albert Lea’s Delta Company.

Sgt. Timothy Poe, who sang on the show and made it to the top 100 acts, claims to have been injured while serving in Afghanistan. That claim and other statements he made while competing on the show are being called into question after Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard, released a statement saying otherwise.

“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,” Olson said.

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In an interview with the Associated Press Olson said his record had been looked at closely and they “did not find something to substantiate what he said.”

What isn’t being called into question is that Poe had served in the Minnesota National Guard, and part of that time was with Albert Lea’s Delta Company as the unit prepared for a deployment to Kosovo at Camp Atterbury in Indiana in 2007.

Delta Company’s Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Dahlen, of Freeborn, said Poe was did supply work while at Camp Atterbury. That means logistical work including ordering and handing out supplies and equipment.

“During breaks in training he would get out his guitar and sing,” Dahlen said.

Poe had been attached to Delta Company from a metro-area Guard unit, before transferring to a transportation unit out of Duluth. Delta Company’s Staff Sgt. Josh Madson remembers Poe playing heavy metal music and once singing a song by System of a Down during karaoke at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

“It was all right — it wasn’t the best,” Madson said.

Poe had told judges on the show he didn’t know he could sing until his speech pathologist said it would help with a stutter he claims came as a result of the alleged injury.

The former soldier had told judges on the NBC show that he was injured during a grenade blast in Afghanistan in 2009. He said he was from San Antonio, Texas, and that he was 35.

Poe had a stutter when he spoke with the judges, which he attributed to his brain injury. The stutter disappeared when he sang. He also didn’t appear to stutter when he spoke with the show’s host after his performance.

He told the judges he spent 14 years in the military, and suffered a broken back and brain injury when he was hit by a grenade in Afghanistan in 2009.

“I had volunteered for a team to go out and clear buildings and help out with the wounded,” Poe said during a taped interview on the show. “There was a guy who come up with a rocket-propelled grenade. I saw it coming down, and by the time I turned and went to jump on top of my guys, I yelled ‘grenade’ and the blast had hit me.”

When he was describing his injury, Poe said during the video clip: “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. … I didn’t want my life to be over.”

He said singing has helped him deal with the injury.

“I’m just happy to be here,” he told the three celebrity judges, who each gave him a ‘yes’ vote to advance to the show’s next round.

Poe was among about 4,000 people who vied for a spot on the NBC series, which doesn’t scrutinize contestants until they reach the ranks of the top 48, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

NBC relies on the show’s producers, FremantleMedia North America and Syco Television, to conduct background checks on contestants when the field is narrowed, the person said, which is typical among TV reality series. NBC and the show’s producers have declined all comment on the Poe matter.

It’s unknown whether Poe, a guitar-strumming country singer, is among the top 48 picked in a Las Vegas audition round in April or if he’s out of the competition. The person would not reveal Poe’s fate on the show, nor would NBC or the show’s producers.

Poe, who was seen on a pre-taped episode Monday of “America’s Got Talent,” was among about 100 acts that the show’s judges sent on to the Las Vegas round. The 48 who made that cut will start competing in live telecasts beginning July 2.

Whatever the Las Vegas outcome was for Poe, it wasn’t affected by questions over his war record that arose this week. The refusal by NBC and others to say whether he’s still a contender allows the drama surrounding him to be milked for a while longer — a potential boon for the top-ranked network series that drew 11.5 million viewers last week.


— The Associated Press contributed to this report.