Return to Sender: Recipient Dead


veteranThis is a story that happened a few years ago, but it still touched me pretty deeply as I too am a veteran. So I’ve decided to share this on my site even though it may not quite fit.

The mother of an Iraqi Freedom veteran, failing to get a simple apology for what she feels was a grievous error, finally decides to allow the court system to settle the matter.

During my most recent visit to the VA Hospital in Tampa, Florida, the multitude of other outpatients there that day, instead of trying to out-complain each other, were waving the latest issue of The Veteran’s Post.

They were outraged by any article in the little paper, published monthly in St. Petersburg for and about veterans and distributed free to patients and outpatients at the medical facility, describing the plight of a woman in Duluth, Minnesota.

Mrs. Joan Najbar’s son had been deployed in Iraq for 22 months back in 2006 when she mailed him a letter. She had not received a reply and two weeks later the U.S. Postal Service returned her letter marked “Undeliverable: Addressee DECEASED” in large red letters. (website)

The woman, as you might imagine, became a basket case and contacted the American Red Cross asking for help in getting information regarding her son. That organization later reported back to her that her boy had not been killed in action but was still bravely fighting alongside his comrades.

She filed a claim with the postal service in 2008 citing “…the emotional distress with physical manifestations” she suffered after receiving the returned letter.

The post office answer was that “…there was no evidence of a negligent act or omission by the USPS or its employees” and denied her claim. She filed a second claim in early 2009 which was also denied.

In December, 2009, Mrs. Najbar sued the U.S. Postal Service in the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis for an unspecified amount citing, “Stamping ‘deceased’ on a soldier’s mail and returning it to his family when, in fact, the soldier is not dead constitutes extreme and outrageous conduct and exceeds the boundaries of decency.”

She added that she had never received an apology from the USPS nor has she ever received an explanation as to why the letter to her son in Iraq was stamped “deceased” in red while he was still alive.

One young veteran, just back from Afghanistan, told me if his mom had gotten such a letter no one could have ever revived her.

Leave a Reply