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Stop-Loss Real Life

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, November 05, 2007 3:54 PM EST
Category: None
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R. Phillippe in Stop-LossIt's coming soon to a theatre near you. March 2008, Paramount Pictures will release the film, Stop-Loss, starring Ryan Phillippe, a young enlistee who is anxious to return home after fighting the war in Iraq.

That’s when he hears the words, “You’ve been stop-lossed.”

Stop-loss allows the military to extend an enlistee's contract, indefinitely, suspending discharges, transfers and retirements in order to retain soldiers eager to return home from  Iraq and Afghanistan. Some on Army tours are being asked to return, not just for a second, but for a third and fourth time.  

Stop-loss was authorized after the Vietnam War to avoid instituting an unpopular draft and was first used in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. Three days after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Towers, President Bush authorized the current policy in an executive order. 

The military says stop-loss is legal pointing to paragraph 9c in the enlistment contract: "In the event of war, my enlistment in the Armed Forces continues until six (6) months after the war ends, unless my enlistment is ended sooner by the President of the United States."  

Since 2002, upward of about 75,000 soldiers have been affected by stop-loss.

Stop-Lossed For Real

Matthew "Cory" Beard22-year-old Matthew “Cory” Beard has the same Hollywood good-looks as Phillippe.  But his stop-loss story is real.

Beard called home Mother’s Day weekend during his training at an undisclosed U.S. desert location. “It’s official Mom,” he gushed over the phone. “I’m not going back to Iraq.”

That was the news his mother, Suzanne Miller of Jacksonville, Florida had been waiting to hear for six months since she learned that Cory would be deployed against his wishes for a second tour of Iraq. It made her Mother’s Day.

But unofficially, Beard soon heard was that he might be deployed to Iraq for a second tour.

For Suzanne Miller, the prospect that her son might have to return to Iraq is the equivalent of a broken promise from the U.S. government.

No peacenik or Cindy Sheehan-style activist, Miller is in fact a staunch Republican who twice voted for George W. Bush. The license plate frame on her 2004 silver Mercedes E-320, says “Army Mom.” She believes in war as a means to an end, even advocates a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

But Miller doesn’t take the broken promise lightly. Miller is a registered nurse who is also a lawyer.  She has made it her cause to fight the military’s “illegal” policy of retaining service members slated for discharge. 

She’s set up a website (www.endstoploss.com), has given interviews to the Chicago Tribune and Florida Times-Union. And most recently taped hours of interviews with the producers of the film, Stop-Loss.  Miller also appeared on the Alan Colmes radio show in March.

Though she acknowledges that he’s “a Democrat,” she says he was the only one of several talk show hosts to respond. “None of the “conservative” talk show hosts have even bothered to acknowledge my e-mails,” she says.

Miller questions the military’s definition of “war,” which she says is being loosely interpreted to mean any conflict. “I’m pretty sure we have not declared war on Iraq and I’m pretty sure they haven’t declared war on us,” she tells IB News.  

Officially she’s right. The U.S. hasn’t officially declared war since World War II. In the president’s “State of Emergency,” he authorized the Department of Defense to respond to the “immediate threats of further attacks on the U.S,” soon authorizing use of military force against Iraq.

The goal of the resulting “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was simple: ferret out Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, and respond to the perceived threat of attacks on the U.S.

But, as Miller observes, “Saddam Hussein is dead and there are no WMD.”

Indeed, in the now famous, “Mission Accomplished” speech on May 1, 2003 President Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq. “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed,” he announced. “And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.”

Miller notes that the use of force resolution said nothing about an occupation, peacekeeping or controlling a civil conflict. Because he’s operating outside of the scope of the authorization,  Miller contends Bush “has now abused that power, and overstepped his authority to engage in this protracted war that affects the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers.”

Without legal footing, Miller says, the administration’s stop-loss policy amounts to little more than indentured servitude.

In a scathing letter to President Bush in April, Miller warns, “If something happens to my son during this 15- to 18- month deployment, you will have his blood on your hands.”

SPC. Matthew “Cory” Beard is the youngest of her two boys, the one his mom describes as “the sensitive one.” He’s tall -- about 6'3" -- and very thin. He loves cats, basketball and the Georgia Bulldogs.

After 9/11 he believed in the connection between Iraq and the attack. Even though this link has been discredited, as late as 2006, 85 percent of troops said they believed the U.S. was in Iraq to retaliate for Hussein’s role in 9/11, according to a Zogby International poll.

Cory signed up for a three-year tour in the spring of 2004, the same year he voted to send Bush back to the White House. He spent 17 weeks in boot camp at Fort Knox, Ky., before heading to Virginia and eventually Fort Stewart, Ga., home of the 3rd Infantry Division, the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi. 

Beard described his year of training to his mother as “kicking in doors and dragging terrorists out of houses.” He was deployed in January, 2005. First stop, Baghdad. 

On her Website, Miller says that her son never expected war to be easy. “My son knew where he was going,” she writes. “He has an IQ of around 140 so he is not one of the mindless pawns described by Senator John Kerry.”

But he did find it traumatizing. He calls his year in Iraq “the worst year of my life.” Cory told his mother, “I’ve seen things no one should have to see.”

In part because of his belief in the mission, Cory volunteered for extra duties and missions while in Iraq. This surprised his mom, who contends he’s not the volunteering sort. He received an award for driving 5,000 miles in Iraq. “He is a very good soldier,” says his mother.

But by November, the good soldier starting getting pressure from his commanding officer to re-up. He would get a promotion, he was promised, which included a bonus. When Cory refused, what Miller calls, “psychological warfare” started. 

“You might as well enlist because you are going back to Iraq anyway,” Miller says he son was told. The bonus to re-enlist was said to be $20,000, perhaps even $30,000.

“Wisely,” his mother says, Cory still said no. He had plans to settle down with his new wife, Leslie and study political science and history at the University of North Florida. Then came the notice- Beard was to be redeployed.

“My whole world just stopped then,” Miller says. “It’s like you’ve been punched in the stomach.” #



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