Tuesday, November 17, 2009
A single mom who is an Army cook may face criminal charges after refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because she has no one to care for her infant son while she serves a year overseas. The Army requires all single-parent soldiers to submit a care plan for dependent children before they deploy to a combat zone, and Spc. Alexis Hutchinson had arranged for her mother to mind her 10-month old son, but that plan fell through at the last minute. Her mother kept the child, Kamani, for two weeks but felt overwhelmed as she already cares for three other relatives with health problems and also runs a day care center for 14 children in her home. She returned him to his mother a few days before her scheduled deployment. Hutchinson, who is no longer in a relationship with the child's father, was ordered to deploy on schedule even though she told her commanders that she needed more time to find another family member or close friend to help her mother care for her son.
She claims that her superior told her she would have to place the child in foster care and deploy anyway. The young mother was afraid that if she showed up at the deployment terminal, she would be sent to Afghanistan and her son placed with Child Protective Services, so she went AWOL. She was arrested by military police for skipping her unit's flight and briefly jailed while her son was placed in custody on the Army post until her mother could pick him up and take him to her home in California.
Specialist Hutchinson remains confined to the boundaries of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. A spokesman for the airfield said that he didn't know what she was told by her commanders, but that the Army would not deploy a single parent who had nobody to care for his or her child. If true, then her superior is a shockingly heartless person who has no business supervising others. Jailing a mother for refusing to abandon her child represents cruel and unusual punishment and should not be tolerated.
While our armed forces fight for our country and its lofty ideals, it is important to remember that every country is made up of individuals whose rights must be upheld or the entire system fails. A nation's people are the nation. Military law says that soldiers must go where they are sent, which becomes the old question of the law versus the letter of the law: Do we uphold a law exactly as it is written without regard for its meaning, or do we try to determine what the law was meant to accomplish? When we obey the letter of the law but not its spirit, we are obeying the literal interpretation of the words while betraying the intent of those who wrote it, and those who live under it.
It is meaningless for a soldier to fight for freedom when her own child is denied the basic right to be cared for by a person who loves him.