07/31/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Will Our Presidential Candidates Demand A Stop To "Stop-Loss"?

When men and women in our country join the military, we enter into a sacred contract with them that obliges us honor their willingness to serve and sacrifice -- end of story.

One of the most egregious violations of this mutual trust is something called "stop loss" -- a very disturbing practice by which our men and women in uniform are forced to continue to serve in the military, after they had expected that they could leave.

Let's say you joined the military and agreed to three years of active-duty service. With "stop loss" you could get held for six months, twelve months, even as long as twenty-one months past the time of your contract. Now, think about that a minute -- can you imagine any other contract that you would sign for thirty-six months where someone would just say, sorry, we're adding on another year and a half to the deal? Of course not.

And yet, as we have written about before, this has happened to more than 70,000 soldiers have been stop lossed since 2002.

Why is this necessary?

Because this Bush administration has stretched our military to the breaking point. Whether it's our over-reliance on the National Guard, or breaking our contract with tens of thousands of men and women in uniform, the question is not whether we can continue the war forever in Iraq, but how in good conscience we can continue to treat our fellow countrymen and women so abusively?

Ours is a volunteer Army.

Don't we owe them the basic right of respecting that contract? I think so.

Garett Reppenhagen, who works at VFA and worked on this post with me, was "stop lossed." Here's what he wrote about the experience when he was serving in Iraq.

I signed up for three years and was informed three months before deploying that I was being "stop lossed" with the rest of my unit and that I could not be released from service until after returning from our year-long tour plus an additional three months on active service stateside.

In the end, I was extended almost ten months beyond my original three-year contract. I was in constant hope throughout my deployment that the "stop loss" order would be lifted, and I would go home on time. Instead I ended up returning from a two-week leave to my home in Colorado to return to duty in Iraq on the day I was supposed to get out of the Army. "Stop loss" was one of the biggest factors contributing to my discontent with Army leaders and their civilian counterparts.

"Stop loss" destroys the morale of soldiers -- especially if they are extended from 6 months to two years.

Fortunately, Senator John McCain has called "stop loss" a "backdoor draft" that happens because the Army won't own up to its true manpower shortages. (Unfortunately, retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a McCain military advisor, recently called stop loss a "myth of the left".)

In addition, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said: "I'd like to see stop-loss go away tomorrow..."

Senator Obama wants to end Stop-Loss orders as well.

There are active bills in Congress to not only end this process but compensate those who have been "stop-lossed." For instance, Senator Frank Lautenberg recently introduced S. 3060, the Stop-Loss Compensation Act, which would require the Pentagon to pay troops who've been "stop lossed" an additional $1,500 for each month their service is extended. In the House, Congresswoman Betty Sutton is the original sponsor of H.R. 6205. We urge you to support their efforts.