US Rep. Butterfield's military service challenged, verified

McClatchy Washington BureauApril 24, 2014 

— A Democratic primary challenger to U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson this week accused him of lying about his military record and refused to drop the matter Thursday after official records confirmed the congressman’s service.

Dan Whittacre of Henderson said he filed a request for Butterfield’s record with the National Personnel Records Center near St. Louis. The center wrote back in a letter Whittacre received last Saturday that the documents could not be found.

But on Wednesday, Matthew Moll, an expert archives technician at the center, said he found the records in the center’s vault on Tuesday in a subsequent search. Moll provided a copy of Butterfield’s documentation to The News & Observer that showed that the congressman served in the Army from 1968 to 1970 and was discharged in 1974 after serving in the Reserves.

But Whittacre, who has run against Butterfield for the 1st Congressional District seat previously, said he still wasn’t satisfied. He took down one posting he put on his campaign website on Facebook: a photo of the young Butterfield in uniform with the word “Fake” in red across it.

Whittacre left up, however, a posting he wrote that said there was “something a little fishy” about Butterfield’s service record. Whittacre wrote that during the Vietnam War, two-year volunteers got put in the infantry and sent to Vietnam. Butterfield, however, served in the United States.

In a phone interview, Whittacre also said he was suspicious that Butterfield’s mustache in a 1970 military photo was too long.

George Wright, an Army spokesman, said it was not necessarily true that a person who enlisted or was drafted in 1968 would go to Vietnam. Soldiers could have been assigned “an infantry specialty or any other number of military occupational specialties that needed to be filled at that moment in time,” he said Thursday.

Whittacre said in an email on Thursday that he was still seeking more information.

“There was no record of his service with the NPRC and now there is,” he wrote. “It seems fishy, but I don’t at the moment have the full story.”

He added: “This is not my top priority and may be a side project this summer.”

Moll said it was correct that another technician hadn’t been able to find Butterfield’s record. They’re listed by Social Security number, and Whittacre hadn’t provided that.

Earlier this week, Whittacre wrote to The N&O, saying the missing record was “definitive proof” Butterfield never served.

Butterfield, who has represented the 1st District since 2005, declined to comment further on Thursday. On Monday he said in a statement, “My opponent’s reckless statement is without merit.”

“I was drafted and served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1970 and honorably discharged with the rank of Specialist E-4,” he said in his statement. “My reserve service ended in 1974. I am proud of my record of service in the United States Army. I am equally proud of the men and women in the Armed Forces who fight for our freedoms every day.”

According to the documents provided to The N&O, Butterfield received the National Defense Service Medal and earned sharpshooter and expert with an automatic weapon badges.

Whittacre said he is a disabled retired Air Force veteran. He ran against Butterfield in the 2012 primary, which the congressman won by nearly 70,000 votes.

The Wilson Times reported in 2012 that Whittacre wanted the State Board of Elections to declare that Butterfield was not a legitimate candidate because he used his initials, instead of his full name, George Kenneth, when he registered his candidacy. Butterfield is from Wilson.

The Daily Advance in Elizabeth City that year reported that Whittacre claimed that Butterfield’s campaign stole his online map of the district and posted it. Butterfield’s campaign denied the accusation.

rschoof@mcclatchydc.com; @reneeschoof

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