A soldier who served in Afghanistan is fighting a battle of a different kind back home in Dallas.
Lt. Col. Leon Batie claims in a lawsuit that two Dallas Subway sandwich shops he owned were illegally taken from him when he went to war in 2005.
“I was totally floored,” Batie said. "In the military, you always have your brother's back. And I really thought that Subway had my back. But it feels as if they stabbed me in the back."
Subway is vigorously defending itself in the lawsuit. In a statement, the company said it supports American troops but has the right to make sure its restaurants are properly managed and believes it followed the law in this case.
Batie opened Subway franchises on Gaston and Grand avenues in 2002 and 2003.
“That was my American dream,” he said.
He operated them until his Army reserve unit was deployed to Afghanistan in 2005. He is now a full-time, active-duty soldier.
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He said he left the restaurants with his brother and another operator, but returned home on a short leave to find them in financial trouble.
“From 8,000 miles away… there wasn’t much I could do," he said.
He said he begged Subway for time to correct the problem.
"I didn't want any special treatment,” he said. “I didn't want to be treated any differently. I just wanted time to fix it."
His parents even offered to mortgage their home to save his restaurants.
"I was doing everything to save my livelihood, and they snatched that from me,” he said.
With him back in Afghanistan, his landlord evicted him, Subway terminated his franchise and sold his restaurants, he said.
In a lawsuit filed three years ago, Batie claims Subway violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
"The purpose of that law was to protect service members who are on active duty from having their homes taken, their stores taken, their businesses taken," said Grant Walsh, Baties’ attorney. "Our soldiers are making sacrifices in their civilian lives when they answer the call to duty, and the law is there to protect them.”
The trial is set for Feb. 1.
Batie is not asking for a specific amount of damages and will leave that decision to the jury. He said he has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I don't want there to ever be another reservist, sailor, soldier, whomever, to be in this position,” Batie said.
Since filing the lawsuit three years ago, Batie has won some major legal skirmishes. In October, a Dallas County district judge ruled Subway violated federal law by not getting a court order before terminating his franchise agreement.
"I just want to be made whole,” Batie said. “And just move on with my life. I want to turn the page."