Attorneys for a decorated combat veteran serving in the Army Reserve will announce Tuesday the filing of a petition challenging a “stop loss” order that requires the reservist to remain in the military beyond the term of his enlistment for possible duty in Iraq. The reservist is identified as “John Doe” for reasons of privacy. Doe’s case is the first legal challenge to Army’s current “stop loss” program.
Under the program, tens of thousands of soldiers have been prevented from retiring or leaving the military upon completing their enlistment terms so that they may be deployed to Iraq. The petition asserts that the program is arbitrary, unfair, and unauthorized by law. The stop loss program has been widely criticized as a “backdoor draft.”
Doe, a San Francisco Bay Area resident, served in combat during the invasion of Iraq last year, and has more than nine years of active service in the military. Doe currently serves as a reservist in the California Army National Guard under a one-year enlistment. He has a wife and two daughters, ages 6 and 3. The stop loss order could require Doe’s return to Iraq for up to two years, and possible continued military service beyond that time.
Doe is represented by attorneys Michael S. Sorgen and Joshua Sondheimer, who are initiating the action in association with the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild. “This is a case that will be closely watched by thousands of military personnel and their families,” says Sorgen.
Doe is one of up to 40,000 service members forced to serve beyond the expiration of their enlistment terms since the war in Iraq began.
“This lawsuit seeks to stop the forced retention of men and women like John Doe who have already fulfilled their service obligations to the country. Their enlistments should have ended, and they should now be entitled to return to their families,” says Sorgen.
“We are asking the federal court to uphold their lawful rights and not allow the Army to create a new category of indentured servitude,” says Marguerite Hiken of the Military Law Task Force.