Special Forces Sgt. Maj. Rick Erickson, a heavily decorated Army Green Beret, earned three Combat Distinguished Valor awards, a Purple Heart and more than 30 more military honors. When he joined up with the US Army National Guard in 1990, he never thought he’d have to leave his career at the United States Post Office, where he aspired to the office of post master.
But when he took military leave and eventually went to Afghanistan in 2000, the USPS fired Erickson.
Now, a judge has ordered the government agency must pay Erickson, 49, the wages he lost as a result of his dismissal. And that could cost the post office as much as $2 million.
“It’s a shame I had to fight 13 years for something the Postal Service could have corrected with a quick decision. But they didn’t want to do the right thing,” Erickson told NBC News
Erickson says being fired from the job forced him to re-enlist in the service in order to support his three daughters.
“This has been torture to me, to my family and friends. I’m a single dad and I had to spend a lot of time away from my daughters," he said. "But this is not just about me. This is about every veteran that got fired from their job while serving their country."
Two of Erickson’s daughters are 21 and in college; the third is 27.
“I couldn’t be hired by any other federal agency. I was red-flagged [within federal agencies] just because the Postal Service fired me," he said. "So I had to re-enlist. I mean, how many civilian jobs are going to hire a Green Beret? What are they going to say, ‘Hey, Green Beret, go bag some groceries?’ ”
He filed a 2006 claim with the Merit Systems Protection Board, saying USPS had violated his federal rights to serve in the military while holding a second job, as is mentioned in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
The USPS has been ordered to begin paying Erickson by Jan. 18, even if they choose to appeal — a process that could take two years.
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