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Support for Lyon, but still no job Higgins asks postmaster to take another look at vet's application

He's getting national attention and support from people in high places.

But so far, decorated military veteran Jason R. Lyon is having no luck in his quest to become a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier.

The 28-year-old Hamburg man said he has been inundated with supportive telephone calls, e-mails and media requests since The Buffalo News published his story on Tuesday. He spent part of Wednesday being interviewed by a Fox News network crew at his home. The widely read Drudge Report, a political commentary Web site, featured his story prominently.

"It's overwhelming, and my wife and I appreciate it, but what I really need is a good job," Lyon said. "When the Postal Service told me last year that I would be hired, pending medical examinations, my wife and I were so happy, we had tears in our eyes. . . . This has been a big letdown."

Now a congressman wants the Postal Service to reconsider its decision to deny a mail carrier's job to Lyon.

Rep. Brian M. Higgins, D-Buffalo, sent a letter Wednesday to Postmaster General John E. Potter, asking him to take a second look at Lyon's case.

Lyon, a National Guard sergeant who was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad last year, has been certified by military doctors as physically fit to return to combat.

But a Buffalo doctor for the Postal Service recently ruled that -- because of a twisted ankle he sustained in 2004 -- he does not meet the physical requirements to become a mail carrier.

"I urge your agency to reconsider the denial, and allow this fine young man to take the position he has earned. He has served his country valiantly in the past and he has passed the civil service exam required for the position," Higgins wrote.

"[Lyon] served in Iraq, and while over there sprained his ankle. It bothered him for a while but after a few months he has absolutely no discomfort or loss of mobility."

At the very least, Higgins said, the Postal Service should allow Lyon to get another medical opinion.

"How can a recipient of a Purple Heart be cleared for combat in Iraq, but not fit for the U.S. Postal Service?" Higgins wrote.

Two spokeswomen for the Postal Service said they do not know whether Potter will agree to review the situation. But both said the Postal Service already looked extensively into Lyon's medical history before denying his application for employment on March 11.

"There has already been a lot of review and examination of medical records," said Karen L. Mazurkiewicz, spokeswoman for the Western New York district of the Postal Service. "We have to be fair, not only to him, but to others who have been turned down for mail carrier jobs for similar reasons.

"The Postal Service respects what he has done for his country. We give hiring preference to veterans. More than 25 percent of our [7,500] employees in Western New York are veterans."

Lyon said he is gratified by all the supportive calls and e-mails he has received, especially from veterans.

A serviceman since 1996, Lyon is a member of the 101st Cavalry Reconnaissance Unit, a New York National Guard unit at the Masten Avenue Armory. He was hurt twice in Iraq while on active duty with the Army between late 2003 and January 2005.

In July 2004, he twisted his ankle when he stepped off a Humvee and landed in a tire rut. Army doctors put a cast on the ankle for two weeks, and he then returned to full duty, leading combat patrols in Baghdad.

In January 2005, Lyon was in a Humvee that was destroyed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Three of his men, riding in the vehicle with him, were killed instantly. Lyon suffered severe burns and had his right ear almost torn off by the blast.

Although military doctors say he has recovered enough from both injuries to be certified for combat duty, a Postal Service doctor said his ankle injury eventually could cause him to become disabled if he gets hired as a mail carrier.

"It's ridiculous," Lyon said. "Since my ankle injury, I've gone on combat patrols, marched carrying heavy packs, and worked for [United Parcel Service]. When the weather is good, I run or walk with my dog every day."

Debra Hawkins, the Postal Service's northeast manager for public affairs, encouraged Lyon to seek other employment with the Postal Service.

"We've had medical determinations made that he can't do the work of a postal carrier," Hawkins said. "But we have other jobs that he could do, like mail handler, mail clerk and custodian . . . As a veteran, he would receive preference for those jobs."

Lyon said he prefers working as a mail carrier because of the pay scale -- about $17.80 an hour -- and the opportunity to work outdoors. He said the National Guard has not expressed any intention of sending him back to Iraq, but has certified him as physically ready for combat.

He said he plans to retire from the National Guard later this year.

Quin Bond, an official of a company called Biomotion of America in New Jersey, said the company is offering to conduct a free "functional capacity evaluation" of Lyon and send the results to the Postal Service.

"We do physical therapy, and we also conduct tests to determine whether a person can handle a particular type of work," Bond said. "If Sgt. Lyons can get here, we'll do the evaluation for him for free."

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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