|By Frank Munger, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But he hasn't lost his fight.
Garland returned to
In the days following the break-in, investigators swarmed upon
By the time Garland was dispatched to the scene in the predawn darkness, the deed was already done. The activists had completed their epic protest, for which they now reside in prison, and they didn't offer any resistance or try to flee when the guard arrived in his security vehicle.
In the hours following the event, Garland said he was repeatedly praised and patted on the back by his bosses at
However, in the days that followed, as some of the initial investigations were concluded, Garland said the tone began to change. He said a union official told him that he might be told to take a few days off.
Garland's actions that morning came under fire for being too lax, too casual, not tough enough for the time and circumstances. Critics said if the trio of peace activists had actually been a diversionary tactic for armed terrorists,
"I was a hero for about two days and then I turned into a zero," he said.
"Like I told the arbitrator ... we can sit here and you can scrutinize me all you want, but at the end of the day I stopped their actions, I detained them, I called for backup, we arrested them, I testified against them and they're in prison. How much more picture perfect can it be than that? And I went home to my family, and nobody got killed and nobody got hurt."
Getting fired knocked Garland for a loop, financially and otherwise.
His wife had some serious health problems, and within a few days of his termination by Wackenhut, his health coverage was discontinued.
Garland eventually was able to land a job as a prison guard at the
As a member of the elite protective force at
At the regional prison, the 53-year-old guard said he makes about
Last November, he started having some unusual responses with his body. At first, he had problems writing with his right hand, and then he experienced a feeling of heaviness in his right leg and couldn't walk normally.
After five MRIs, a spinal tap, and other tests, doctors diagnosed multiple sclerosis. The prescribed medication helped Garland overcome those symptoms, and his prison health insurance pays almost all of the costs for the drugs, which otherwise would cost him
"I'm doing good right now," he said.
But the financial crunch cost him his home in
Asked if he'd return to work at
Garland is hoping to get a financial settlement that will include back pay for the time since he was fired, as well as the potential overtime over the past couple of years.
He said he thinks about the
While he would do some things differently, perhaps approach the protest scene in a different manner, Garland said he would mostly do what he did back in 2012.
He believes he was fired simply because Wackenhut and others hoped that taking some action would help cover up or divert attention from some of the bigger issues, such as cameras and detectors that didn't work as they should have. If the federal government and its contractors had done their job, his interaction with the protesters wouldn't have even been an issue, Garland said.
If Wackenhut hadn't laid off a number of security police officers in the months preceding the break-in, the peace activists probably would have been detained by security patrols before they ever got close to the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, he said.
Garland has been accused of being too nice to the three individuals who reached a forbidden area of the national security facility in
He said he carries that same attitude in his current job at the
"I treat people with respect," he said. "I work around murderers and rapists every day. I don't have to cuss them out. I just tell them the rules."
(c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com
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