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Son Alive Despite Military Letter Saying `Deceased’

(CN) - A woman who was heartbroken when a letter to her son in Iraq was returned marked "Deceased" in bold red letters says the federal government has stonewalled her for years by refusing to apologize or admit wrongdoing. Her son is alive and well, and Joan Najbar says the federal government's negligence "exceeds the boundaries of decency."

In her complaint in Minneapolis Federal Court, Najbar, of Duluth, says she got the shocking returned letter in 2006 just days after talking to her son on the telephone from Iraq.

A short time later the Red Cross told her that her son was not dead.

Najbar says she is an outspoken anti-war activist who had publicly protested her son's deployment. She told the Duluth News-Tribune at the time that the incident could have been a cruel prank.

But a spokeswoman for the Minnesota National Guard told The Associated Press in 2006 that "the Army would not return letters to the family of a dead soldier in this manner."

Najbar filed a federal tort claim with the Postal Service in 2008, claiming the agency had violated its own policies that employees are to stamp a letter "deceased" only after receiving "absolute verification" of the addressee's demise.

The Postal Service denied her claim and two subsequent appeals, and to this day Najbar says "she has never received an apology from the USPS, nor has she ever received an explanation of why the letter sent to her son Iraq was marked Deceased'."

Najbar says the returned letter exacerbated her problems and cost her income. She says there is no evidence that any agency other than the Postal Service ever had possession of the letter.

Najbar seeks damages for emotional distress, lost income and negligence. She is represented by Jeff Eckland of Minneapolis.

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