Unanswered questions about plans for military memorial

Print
Email
|

by BYRON HARRIS

Bio | Email

WFAA

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 10:38 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 28 at 8:42 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

KENNEDALE — Questions are swirling around a $50 million project in Kennedale to honor veterans who have died since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Texas Attorney General is looking into documentation behind the United States Fallen Heroes Foundation.

  • What exactly is the United States Fallen Heroes Foundation?
  • Why does its founder use two names?
  • And is it a tax-exempt organization?

The memorial project was introduced to the public during a slick presentation at a news conference two months ago. An animation showed 15 acres of land in Kennedale that would be the site of a memorial. A Web site honoring veterans was set up, and TV spots in which families of vets were used to solicit money.

"This memorial will also include all military personnel that have died post-9/11 and have died as a result of combat and non-combat injuries and trauma," said Walter Coleman, who said he was chairman of the U.S. Fallen Heroes Foundation.

But while Coleman was happy to be on TV to raise money then, he canceled two appointments with News 8 to discuss the organization. When he finally did show up, he would not let us record an interview.

"I'll be interviewed, but not on camera," he said.

Coleman did not want to be interviewed about his application to the IRS for tax-exempt status. The IRS has no record of the the U.S. Fallen Heroes Foundation.

News 8 discovered Coleman signs documents with two signatures and two names: "Evan Coleman" and "Walter Coleman."

"I'm both," he said when asked about the dual identity. "I'm Walter Raleigh Evan Coleman Jr."

He said his use of one name of the other "depends on the documents."

Records indicate that Coleman used "Walter" as a first name after a credit union sued him for $10,000 in debt under the name of "Evan Coleman.

Another question surrounds Coleman's military record. Kennedale City Manager Bob Hart is one of several people who say Coleman represented himself as a veteran.

"My impression is that he would have served in Vietnam, because he's made comments in that regard," Hart said.

But when pressed, Coleman told News 8 he was never in the military.

He runs the Fallen Heroes Foundation from his home in Mansfield, which until recently was also the home of the Texas/Louisiana Fallen Heroes Foundation.

Although Coleman has given documents to the City of Kennedale which include a non-existent employer identification number, or EIN, Coleman passes it off as an innocent error.

In Kennedale, construction crews are already working on a new road that would have gone by the memorial. The City of Kennedale says it will now investigate the background of the Fallen Heroes Foundation.

The city has signed a contract to sell 15 acres of land to the foundation, but Hart says Kennedale has not lost any money in the deal. "They've signed the contract, yes. But the contract allows for an 18-month window in which to raise funds to acquire the land," Hart said.

The Texas Attorney General has asked the Fallen Heroes Foundation for all of their records.

The man who says he is "Walter Raleigh Evan Coleman Jr." says he has only collected $1,000 for his $50 million project. But he's the only one who knows the real total.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|