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Reservist wins $2 million award against Postal Service after firing

Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras, a recipient of three Purple Hearts who helped rescue Jessica Lynch at the beginning of the post-9/11 wars, died May 13 in San Antonio Military Medical Center after suffering injuries in Harat Province, Afghanistan on May 6. (Photo: Thinkstock)

An Army Special Forces reservist who earned a Purple Heart for wounds received on an overseas deployment has won a seven-year legal battle with the U.S. Postal Service, winning reinstatement from being fired as well as back pay that could total as much as $2 million.

Sgt. Maj. Richard Erickson was fired from the USPS, his civilian employer, while serving overseas in 2000. He was let go for "excessive military leave," the Postal Service said at the time. Such a firing is illegal under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, though, and the federal Merit Systems Protection Board ruled in Erickson's favor last week.

"We thought it was a relatively simple issue," Matthew Estes, Erickson's attorney, told the Los Angeles Times. He added that he hopes the case "make[s] sure employers think twice before firing someone who's on military duty."

Erickson, 50, who returned to active duty after the firing, said he is unlikely to return to his old job, citing hard feelings about the situation.

The Postal Service may not be giving up, though. A spokeswoman told the Times: "Litigation is ongoing and appeals are possible."