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Veteran sues US over term

SAN FRANCISCO -- A decorated US combat veteran filed a lawsuit yesterday asserting that the government can not prevent reservists from leaving the military when their enlistment periods end.

The suit against Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other military officials, names the plaintiff only as John Doe. It says he served in the Marine Corps and Army for nine years on active duty and three years as a reservist.

"This lawsuit seeks to stop the forced retention of men and women who have fulfilled their service obligations," said attorney Michael Sorgen. "When their period of enlistment ends, they should be entitled to return to their families."

The Army has issued "stop-loss" orders preventing tens of thousands of soldiers designated to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan from leaving the military if their volunteer service commitment ends during their deployment.

The Pentagon has relied heavily on reservists to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The order violates Doe's right to due process and the terms of his enlistment contract, and is contrary to law," the lawsuit reads. "The involuntary extension of Doe's military enlistment constitutes a serious infringement on his liberty protected by the Constitution."

The San Francisco-area man, who filed the lawsuit in US District Court for Northern California, fought during the invasion of Iraq. He is seeking a release from service when his Army National Guard term ends in December.

The suit names the plaintiff's commander as Captain Kincy Clark, who heads Bravo Company of the First Battalion, 184th Infantry regiment based in Dublin, Calif.

Clark said that reservists know when signing up that "stop loss" or extension of service is a possibility.

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