<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I Finally Got Some Military Records - Credibility Restored! 

Well, it has been a long time in the coming, but I have finally done it! I got some of my military records that people wanted to see. Now there should be no question of whether or not I served. (For those not aware of the controversy, refer back in the archives to December, 2003 to see what went on. Tyson had disputed that I served, and when the LA Times said that they tried to check it out, they told me that they were told by the military that no such records could be found. As I did not have any of these copies then, they ran a retraction stating as much. This clears that up once and for all. I have now proved that I did in fact serve.)

I wanted to explain a few things before you look at what I have decided to share, though.

First of all, if you were reading this blog back then, you were aware of the fact that my trailer had burned, along with everything in it, including any copies of records I had. I was not aware of the existence of these back then, and certain members of my family (especially my sister-in-law)were not too happy with me blowing the whistle on Tyson because they were being hassled by Tyson for my actions. So, we pretty much didn't talk for quite a while until the dust settled a bit. I do still have family members working there that are still not happy with my actions, but that isn't really a problem for me now. I understand that they are afraid of losing their jobs and everything they have worked so hard to get, so I am not holding a grudge against any of them for their actions or inactions when it comes to this controversy.

Also, I want to make it clear that I am not holding the LA Times or the reporter who wrote the story responsible. They did the best job they could under the circumstances. The fact of the matter is that I had no reason to believe at the time that any of this would happen, and given only three days to come up with proof, there really wasn't much that I could do about it. Yeah, I was pretty angry at the time (and for quite a while after, actually) because I felt like they didn't work hard enough to get to the bottom of this, but I can see how they were under a lot of pressure from an angry Tyson and expected me to back up my story myself. So, I can't blame them for any of this. I guess I should have made sure that I had a little more proof of things I said, but in all fairness, I never knew that this would be an issue. I was so concerned with making sure that my allegations against Tyson were backed up with incontrovertible evidence (like the videos of eyewitness testimony) that I just never even thought about the fact of anyone questioning whether or not I had served. It was pretty much common knowledge around here, so I never thought there would be a problem with it. And I certainly had no idea that there might have been a loss of records. (I might point out here that I have never confirmed this with the military myself - just took the reporter's word for it, but she had no reason to lie about it.)

Now, as to the records themselves.

What I was able to get is only a small portion of what there was. While I may have some suspicion that some of them might have been gotten rid of, I have no proof of this, and it is equally possible that the missing portions were the ones that burned up. Therefore, I do not intend to "go after" anyone about this or open any sort of investigation into any sort of "cover-up" or "tampering." It could have happened, but it might not have. I will never know for sure, and it really doesn't matter, seeing as I got enough to prove what I needed to prove - namely that I did indeed serve my country as I said I did. Case closed. Move on.

I had pretty much decided a while back not to pursue finding these records because of several reasons. First, I thought that it was a waste of my time, as I didn't know that they existed and figured that it would all blow over after a while. Especially since I had other evidence to back up what I said about what happened at Tyson. Second, Tyson was trying their best to keep the focus on me and my personal life and off of what happened at the plant. That was not what I wanted to talk about or spend my time and energy on. I have much more important things to work on with all the cruelty issues involving the animals. I was advised by several people not to worry about it - that it didn't matter. (Wrong!) Third, and perhaps the biggest reason, was that I was afraid that whatever I posted about myself would make it easy for someone to steal my identity or to copy such records to use for nefarious purposes. I know that a couple of the things I posted could have been duplicated and used to gain entry to a military base, apply for benefits, or go to a VA Hospital (maybe more). I was not going to just put up something that terrorists could use to threaten any of our service men and women or their families. I am still worried about that a bit, but I did a lot of sanitizing of the records to try and prevent this. (However, if anyone from the military contacts me to tell me to remove these forms, I will do so immediately, so look quickly and make copies if you are interested and need them, just in case.)

Now, on the photo page (where I posted these) are the descriptions of what you are looking at, for those unfamiliar with military forms. But, I will give you a quick rundown of what is there. I showed a pic of the folder all this stuff was found in, a pay voucher, a processing sheet, my ASVAB scores, and a DD214.

However, I also included something else while I was at it. Many of you may remember that I talked about the fact of having been quite sick when I lost my job there and that I sought medical help. Therefore, Tyson decided to fire me while I was under a doctor's care. I called in and even emailed my sister-in-law to report my illness when I couldn't get through on the call-in number at the plant (it's a message-only number; no person answers that line, and it rarely works, and then sometimes only in Spanish!), but she didn't tell them that and even said that she signed off on my termination papers. Well, I have also posted the certified letter I received from the hospital at the time, telling me that I needed a sinus scan. (I still have the doctor's excuse, too, but I didn't post that.) Of course, this was never done, since I lost my insurance and couldn't pay for such an expensive test, so I still have no idea what is wrong, but I have no doubt that it is related to the exposure to dust, lime, and other things I was breathing when I worked there. Quite a few of us got real sick, and that was why I was trying to contact OSHA about the working conditions. We were getting VERY sick and wanted conditions improved. Safety rules were being violated, and we couldn't get any help from the company. Now, just about all of the people that were exposed and turned up sick have lost their jobs. Seems they did a little more cleaning house after I left to cover themselves. Who knows what that sinus scan would show?

I will share another thing with you before I end this post. That is the reason that I finally decided to post these records. You see, I found out recently that there were activists (one of them a person that I have worked with and that I consider a friend) that were being mocked when they were trying to protest these abuses. Apparently some of the flyers they were using must have had some of the testimony I had given and (from what I was told) my name on them. There were people walking up to these caring, dedicated individuals and telling them that the cruelties they were protesting weren't real and that everything I said was a lie, based on the fact that no records had surfaced to prove my military service. Apparently in these peoples' minds, if I had made that up, then I had made up the abuses at the plant also. Well, this obviously hurt my friend and made her feel hurt and confused. That, in turn, made me feel bad, too. I had not realized that it was such a big deal. But, when I found out that my inaction on this issue had caused her (and no doubt others) hardship, I contacted her and promised that I would do my best to see what I could do to fix the problem. Well, now I have fulfilled that promise.

I would like to publicly apologize to her and anyone else that endured similar treatment because of all of this. I really thought that my testimony, along with the videos that backed up my allegations, were enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was telling the truth about what happened down there. I was apparently very wrong. Some people just don't seem to want to believe such things. They seem to grab at anything they can to justify their continued support of such a cruel industry. I was new to the activist scene and really didn't know much about what I was doing or the hurdles activists face in trying to educate the public. (I am not trying to make excuses or anything, just trying to offer an explanation of what I thought at the time.) I really thought that people would see all of that evidence and realize that every time they took a bite of Tyson chicken, they were supporting terrible and torturous cruelty to animals. I also even naively believed that Tyson would be forced to take steps to ensure that this sort of treatment would not happen anymore and that the ones responsible for the worst of the atrocities, especially those in charge, like Richard Frasier, would be fired and prosecuted. Man, did I have a lot to learn!

Well, I have been around a little longer now. I have a better idea of the true situation. I understand that much of the public is in denial and that these powerful corporations will stop at nothing to make a buck, even at the expense of everything else - the workers, the chickens, the environment, and even their own credibility. They lie and twist facts. They manipulate people and governments. They have no conscience. And that was where my problem was. I did have a conscience - one that was eating at me all the time for my involvement in it all for so very long.

This will be the last I intend to say on this matter. I now consider this issue closed. None of this was ever about me or my personal life. It was about the workers and the chickens the most. It was about me trying my best to make amends and get rid of the overwhelming guilt I suffered.

And, once again, I would like to apologize to anyone that suffered because of this. You on the front lines have my permission to make copies of what I posted to shove in the faces of those who doubt what you say when protesting. But, do it quick. (If you come to this page late and the documents are gone, though, just email me. I will email you a copy.)

And the last thing I would like to do here is to thank those that have stood by me through all of this, trusting in me and that what I said was indeed the truth. Your trust was not misplaced. You can't know how much your support has meant to me. You know who you are. I couldn't have done it all without you. Thanks for being there and believing in me.
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