SOUTHFIELD, Mich., April 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Gazvoda doesn't have to report to a Homeland Security posting in Laredo, Texas, or lose his job, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
The 31-year-old native of Chassell in the Upper Peninsula is hopeful the preliminary injunction against his employer, the Department of Homeland Security, for which he's worked as a border patrol agent since his Army discharge, will soon be made permanent and his request for a job on the Canadian border in Sault Ste. Marie or Port Huron will be granted, according to officials at the Nyman Turkish law firm.
"All I want is to be able to continue serving my country," Gazvoda says, who remains active in the Michigan National Guard. "I just can't do it in a place that constantly reminds me of where I was repeatedly shot at. I'm sorry about that – I really am - but I just can't be there."
U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington ruled Homeland Security can't force Gazvoda to relocate back to a position in Laredo, Texas, where he briefly worked until post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms forced him to take unpaid administrative leave and return to Michigan.
Gazvoda contended the terrain on the southern border reminded him too much of Afghanistan, where he took part in 34 firefights and earned an Army Commendation Medal with Valor. Last November, Homeland Security denied his request for a "compassionate transfer" and warned he would be considered AWOL (absent without leave) and could be disciplined or fired if he didn't report to Laredo within three days. Remarkably, the instructions to report to Laredo were given against the advice of multiple doctors, employed by the federal government, who all agreed that stationing this combat veteran in an environment similar to his wartime experiences was against everyone's best interests.
Instead of reporting to Laredo against the advices of his doctors, Gazvoda sued Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection saying they were in violation of the very federal laws they are charged with upholding, by not accommodating his disability under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
"This is not how you treat a decorated war veteran," said Jason Turkish, managing partner of Nyman Turkish PC, a national litigation and disability firm representing Sgt. Gazvoda. "It's time for Secretary Johnson and Commissioner Kerlikowske to stand up for this decorated veteran and do the right thing. Sgt. Gazvoda put his life on the line for his Country in war, and now he simply wants a fair shot at continuing to serve his country back home. Protecting the homeland means standing by our troops, and Secretary Johnson has failed miserably in this case at upholding that most basic and solemn obligation."
Turkish said the next step in the case is making the injunction permanent by proving to the court that suitable postings in another climate have been and are available within the department. Gazvoda currently lives in Grayling, Michigan.
Contact: TJ Bucholz, 517.898.4641
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SOURCE Nyman Turkish PC