Con man's son serves honorably to right father's wrongs
December 16, 2010
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Dec. 16, 2010) -- For 10 years he sat behind a desk as an investment banker and managed more than $100 million in assets.
For 10 years, he dreamed of getting out from behind that desk.
"I thought about it every day honestly," said Pfc. Bruce S. Simms, a 34-year-old rifleman. "At the bank, I would sit behind the desk and think about wanting to be (in the Army) every day for 10 years."
Simms shrugged off the shackles of the investment-banking world and the generous pay that goes with it to become an infantryman assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
He now lives on a small, spartan combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar Province.
"I'm just a common American who loves his country and wants to see great things come from our country," Simms said while sitting and resting his bruised leg in his room at Combat Outpost Fortress.
He had just returned from a two-day mission in the mountains bordering Pakistan where he slipped and injured his leg. But that didn't stop him from completing the operation with his unit.
"My dad taught me as a kid that you can do whatever it is you want to do," Simms said with a grin. "Whenever an obstacle presents itself, take a step back, change your direction of battle, regroup and go back and attack the target again."
Simms readjusted the ice pack on his ankle and continued.
"Growing up, my dad was kind of a hero to me, so I wanted to follow in his footsteps and avoid some of the mistakes that he made," he said.
When asked about the mistakes his father made, Simms laughed nervously.
"That would be getting into a whole different story, you have no idea of what you're digging up right now," he said. "The Army knows all about him."
Then Simms hefted his wounded leg out of bed and motioned to follow outside to a more discreet bunker.
That's when he explained who his father was.
Actually, growing up, Simms had eight different fathers. Their names were Wayne Simms, Kenny Tyler, Thomas Michael Lamar, Brandon Lee Bailey, David Auni, Michael Simms, Robert Simms and Paul Robert Ritter. He now knows him as one man - David Michael Pecard.
"My dad was a very dishonorable man, but a very honorable man at the same time. It's very weird," Simms said. "The guy, for lack of a better word, was a crook."
Simms' father had a plethora of jobs from police officer to emergency room technician to Soldier. In fact, his father enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 14 to fight in Vietnam.
After being discovered by his fellow Soldiers in Vietnam to be only 14, Simms' father was sent back home. Within a few months, he rejoined the Army for the second time.
This time, a 17-year-old Pvt. Wayne Simms, was sent to his first tour in Korea. There in 1974, he married Susan Kwon and took her to America, but disappeared when their second child was six days old.
Occasionally throughout Simms' childhood, his father drifted back into his life, but never stayed for long. After all, he had other families to visit.
"He's had like eight different wives across different countries," Simms explained with a laugh.
"David Pecard is probably one of the biggest con men in the United States," said Simms. "Actually, he went on record as probably being the biggest one, unfortunately."
Not only did Pecard fraudulently join the military at 14, then again at 17 with different aliases, but joined it five more times for a total of seven different identities.
"Someone that has this mind, has the mental capability to do such great things, I mean, he did great things, but he did it in a fraudulent manner," said Simms.
Though Pecard was a con man, he described himself as the Robin Hood of con men. For example, he helped put criminals behind bars when he worked as a fake military attache to the Maricopa County Police Department in Arizona.
"In my opinion, although he did serve his country, it was a dishonorable thing to defraud his government like that," said Simms.
Simms added he wanted to try to bring honor to his family despite what his father had done.
"I know it's a cliche that the family name doesn't mean much to some, but to me it does. Maybe I'm a little old fashioned that way," said Simms. "I didn't join the military (for) money for college. I've been to college. I joined not because I needed a better salary. I took probably about a 60 percent pay cut to serve. I joined because I wanted to serve my country honorably."
Unfortunately, the process to serve honorably wasn't an easy one for Simms.
"When I was younger, being like dad, I made a stupid mistake," said Simms. "I stole some money from a job I had and, fortunately, got arrested for it."
Though it was a misdemeanor that Simms had expunged, sealed and erased by the court, the U.S. Army Recruiting Command saw things differently. The charge violated the Uniformed Code of Military Justice because the amount stolen was more than $500. Therefore, they viewed it as a felony.
Though Simms managed more than $100 million dollars in assets as an investment banker, graduated from Newburgh Theological Seminary & College of the Bible to become a pastor, his credibility was still under question.
"So I went back to Chicago, had the case re-opened and had the case changed from guilty to not guilty," explained Simms. "After several months I still didn't hear an answer and wanted to know who I needed to talk to. "
"They said the USAREC commanding general made the decision. 'Well, why don't I just go talk to him'' 'You can't do that.' 'Sure I can.' So I put together a little packet and sent it out to the USAREC CG," Simms continued.
A few weeks later, the commanding general flew into town and had dinner with Simms and his wife.
"The CG wanted to know why I wanted to serve so badly and why I didn't give up and why I didn't quit," Simms said. "I told him, 'The same amount of effort I put into wanting to join the military is the same amount I'll put into being a good Soldier.'"
"And that's really what I wanted to do," Simms explained. "Not just come in and be a Soldier, but be a good Soldier and contribute to our country and our war effort here in Afghanistan."
The next day, Simms got a call from his recruiter to sign a contract.
"I wanted to come in and serve, and it didn't matter how," said Simms. "If the Army needed someone to come in and clean toilets, then guess what, I would have come in and cleaned toilets just so I can serve our country in a time of war. And that's really the honest to God reason why I'm here."
Simms shuffled his weight off his injured leg inside the tiny bunker at COP Fortress and laughed again. He smiled a sincere smile and then stared off into the distance at a pile of sandbags.
"As a kid, I'd run all the time," said Simms. "Constantly, all the time I'd run. I was running probably a good 20 miles a week, sometimes 30 miles a week. There's no question when I came to basic training at 34 years old, I was running circles around these guys 'cause I kept running. I even ran the Los Angeles Marathon."
He explained running is in his blood.
"When I was a kid, he'd come around and we'd run," Simms said about his father.
But no matter how far or fast his father ran, the law and the Army eventually caught up to him. In 1996, he was sent to prison. After a couple of years, he filed a motion to dismiss his case, helped represent himself and won.
"When I say it's been an incredible journey, it's been an incredible journey," Simms said.
Simms still talks to his dad on the phone occasionally and asks him advice on how to become a better Soldier. That's one thing that Pecard probably has a pretty good handle on. After all, Pecard has been a Soldier seven different times and is now a father of one.