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Soldier fighting extension reported hospitalized

A soldier who was supposed to return to Iraq after losing a legal bid has been hospitalized for “intense distress” in Arkansas, his lawyers said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A soldier who was supposed to return to Iraq after losing a legal bid to remain home in Arkansas has been hospitalized for “intense distress,” his lawyers said Monday.

An attorney said the soldier, Spc. David Qualls, one of eight challenging the Army’s authority to extend their service, feared a hostile reception from the military if he had returned to Iraq as scheduled Sunday.

After a judge ruled against him, Qualls “received word from Iraq that he would be retaliated against upon his return,” the attorney, Jeffery Fogel of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement.

“As a result, he suffered intense distress and is now under examination at the VA hospital in Little Rock,” Fogel said. “We hope the Army will recognize the seriousness of this situation and, at a minimum, act to ensure that Mr. Qualls is protected if and when he returns to Iraq.”

The VA hospital in Little Rock said Qualls, 35, actually was in the veterans hospital in North Little Rock, which treats military personnel for emotional and psychological problems. The hospital in North Little Rock declined to confirm that Qualls was there, citing privacy concerns.

David Lerner, a spokesman for the New York-based center, said attorneys have asked the federal court in Washington to ensure that Qualls will not be punished by the military because of his lawsuit, which is under review.

Qualls, of Morrilton, and the seven other soldiers are challenging the Army’s policy requiring them to serve longer than the terms of their enlistment contracts.

Qualls signed up in July 2003 for a one-year stint in the Arkansas National Guard but has been told he will remain on active duty in Iraq until next year.

The seven other soldiers in the lawsuit — listed as John Does to protect their privacy — are serving in Iraq or are in Kuwait en route to Iraq, according to court papers.