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California: Marine reservists uneasy about recall risk

Tracy Della Vecchia talks about the possible call-up of her son, Derrick Jensen (right), on Wednesday in their Columbia, Mo., home. Jensen, who has already seen three tours of combat duty, still has three years left on his eight-year contract, making him eligible to be called up for another tour of duty.
L.G. PATTERSON / Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- After spending six months in Iraq, Marine reservist David Morgan figured he was done patrolling the dangerous streets and could focus on building his biotech business.


By THOMAS WATKINS Associated Press

He may be wrong.

Now Morgan could be returned to active duty as part of the first involuntary call-up of reservists since the early days of the war.

"It would be devastating to my career," said Morgan, 37, vice president and general manager of Irvine, Calif., -based US Labs, a medical diagnostic company with 700 employees.

The call-ups, announced Tuesday, will begin in the next few months. Most of the Marines are expected to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No more than 2,500 Marines will be recalled at any one time, but there is no cap on the total number who may be forced back into service for up to two years.

Morgan, a lieutenant colonel, said he believes in the U.S. mission in Iraq, but fears another deployment would hurt his company.

"We have a highly specialized work force," Morgan said. "If leaders leave, workers could get skittish."

The call-up will affect Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve, a segment of the reserves that consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still

have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations.

In Columbia, Mo., Marine families are buzzing with questions about the latest call-up order, said Tracy Della Vecchia, who oversees MarineParents.com and whose son is in the ready reserve.

"You think you're done," said Della Vecchia.

She's also concerned that problems may be brewing elsewhere in the world -- perhaps in North Korea. She says people "never know the whole story until it hits us front and center."

Her son, Derrick Jensen, is a 23-year-old Marine who has already seen three tours of combat duty as an infantryman and communications specialist, including stints in some of Iraq's most volatile war zones. He still has three years remaining on an eight-year contract.

Even though Della Vecchia and her son knew he made a long-term commitment, neither was prepared for the roller coaster of emotions created by repeated trips to the battlefield.

"He was home. He was starting his life. He was going to make up for four years of lost time, catch up with his friends and his wife," she said.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of Votevets.org, said the recall is a sign that troops are drastically overextended and it is "the last thing that happens before the draft."

Paul Hackett, an attorney from Cincinnati, thinks his background as a civil affairs specialist makes him a prime candidate for an involuntary recall, as there is a shortage of Marines like him. Two weeks ago, he received a packet from the Navy requesting updated information for a security clearance -- a sign, he believes, that a recall order could be coming.

Hackett, a major, returned in 2005 from a combat tour in Iraq. Soon after, he ran unsuccessfully as an anti-war candidate in a key Senate race.

If he is forced back to Iraq, Hackett, 44, said it would be hard to be away from his wife and three young children, but he wants to fight with his fellow Marines.

"Even in this miserable excuse of a war that this administration has gotten us into, the Marine Corps is a great operation," he said.