ST. LOUIS — An Army sergeant from Alabama who refused deployment to Iraq last year faces a military hearing Tuesday.
Matthis Chiroux, 25, is not facing a court-martial, but the hearing at the Army Human Resources Command in St. Louis will determine whether he gets an honorable discharge from the military. Lt. Col. Maria Quon said Monday that a dishonorable discharge is not being considered, but Chiroux could get a general discharge or an other-than-honorable discharge, either of which could result in fewer benefits after he leaves the military.
Anti-war protesters plan a rally in support of Chiroux outside the hearing, which is not open to the public.
Chiroux is an Individual Ready Reservist who was informed last year he was being sent to Iraq. He refused to report.
In a telephone interview on Monday, he called the war in Iraq "illegal and unconstitutional."
"Soldiers are deploying again and again and again to do things they do not believe in," Chiroux said.
Chiroux, now of Brooklyn, grew up in Auburn, Ala., and enlisted in the Army soon after graduating from high school in 2002. He spent five years as a public affairs specialist in Japan and Europe before receiving an honorable discharge from active duty, Quon said.
But his military contract called for him to spend another three years as a member of the Individual Ready Reserves, an inactive status during which soldiers don't train or draw a paycheck but are subject to being called back to service. These soldiers are called upon only in times of war or emergency.
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan straining active-duty forces, the Army has deployed 27,000 Individual Ready Reserve troops since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Quon said.
Chiroux learned in February 2008 he was being sent to Iraq. He requested a delay to report on June 15, then announced he wouldn't go.
Chiroux said the Army also accused him of "misconduct" for refusing to deploy, and he wants that charge stricken from his record.
While choosing not to seek a court-martial, the hearing on Tuesday could bring an end to Chiroux's military contract a year early.
At stake for Chiroux are benefits after he leaves the military. Those who get an honorable discharge are eligible for a variety of benefits — financial, health care, even shopping at military bases. Those who are dishonorably discharged get none of those benefits. And for those who get a general or other-than-honorable discharge, benefits are subject to the discretion of the Veterans Administration. They may also forfeit the right to apply for some civil service jobs, Quon said.
Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, 300 Individual Ready Reserve members of the military who refused deployment have been given other-than-honorable discharges, and 93 have been given general discharges, Quon said. None has faced court-martial.