Patrie, who turns 56 on Thursday, was activated in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He “served almost continuously” from September 2001 until Dec. 31, 2015, flying combat air patrols in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this period, the U.S. military increasingly relied on part-timers — guardsmen and reservists — on orders to run operations in support of active duty personnel.
All the while, Patrie worked at the Postal Service in Maine since 1997.
Throughout his numerous deployments, Patrie provided the Postal Service with copies of his updated orders, maintained his membership in the letter carriers’ union and “was placed in a ‘leave without pay’ status,” according to court documents.
“They knew my background when they hired me, and they had no qualms with it,” Patrie said.
According to the service’s own employee manual, the Postal Service “supports employee service in the Reserve or National Guard,” barring any action aimed to “discourage either voluntary or involuntary participation.”
Nearing the end of his active duty service, Patrie notified the Postal Service to request reinstatement, in keeping with the human resources guidebooks he had received.
The Postal Service, however, denied the request. Like the case of Sgt. Maj. Richard Erickson, the service claimed Patrie had “abandoned” his civilian career in favor of a military one.
“I was awestruck,” Patrie said. “Every time I dropped off my orders, there was no mention of the word ‘abandonment,’ and every two weeks, I received…everything a normal worker would.”