Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Woman's War


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.

35 comments:

HaS the Turtle said...

I CAN VOUCH FOR THIS.

My parents were both in the army when I was born. When the gulf war broke out, the Armed forces wanted to deploy them both and told my parents to put me in foster care...She wasn't having that so she eventually got out of the military because of that issue. She's a teacher now...its crazy how some heartless individuals can end up representing an entire mass of people...

meno said...

Put my child in foster care????!!!!

I don't think so!

Gotta love the military, they may not be right, but they are never "wrong."

Bastards!

thailandchani said...

Oh, my gosh. Now I've heard it all! So much for "family values", eh?




~*

Los Angelista said...

I saw this story today and could totally believe that this mom was put in such a position. It's horrible but nope, they don't care. Like Turtle, I've heard waay too many stories like this. My sister has had two different children come live with her over the past few years for precisely this reason. It's just ridiculous but the military just sees it as you need to show up for work, period.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Turtle Man,

Thank you for validating this story, and for your visit. I cannot imagine being in the situation this woman and your parents have had to deal with. It may be common practice which is largely unreported because few dare to defy the military.

Meno,

The trouble with the military is that it can easily become a substitute for humanity, especially in wartime.

Chani,

Family values indeed.

Liz,

Yeah, well that's just wrong. Quite apart from the appalling lack of compassion for one of their own, there is no logic in sending people off to help in other countries while their very own children are traumatized at home.

nick said...

As you say at the end, how can someone be fighting for freedom if at the same time they and their child are being denied THEIR freedom? A total contradiction. But Liz is right, like any big business, their main concern is not your personal circumstances but whether you've shown up for work.

the walking man said...

This story is no finished yet, the one thing the military is sensitive too is adverse publicity in the way it treats soldiers.

There was a similar case a few months back where the mother took her children to the deployment center with her after informing her CO of her issues about long term child care. It seemed after the publicity her services in Iraq were not needed.

I doubt that this young woman's case will be adjudicated and go any further. Unfortunately her price paid may be a discharge which also means loss of income and everything associated with that loss.

Avril Fleur said...

Shameful! Absolutely shameful! Shame on the US Military for allowing this to happen!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nick,

It's true. The military is a very big business which I, as a non-military person, am not equipped to understand. But in simple human terms, what they are doing to this woman and her family seems terribly wrong.

Mark,

I think I would have done what she did and failed to show out of fear that I would be sent away and my baby left to fend for himself. It's hard to operate on faith that a huge, impersonal entity will do the right thing for an individual when the stakes are so high.

Avril,

Hopefully, the publicity this incident is receiving will persuade them to reassign her stateside or at worst, grant her an honorable discharge.

Warty Mammal said...

It's a shame when the implementing of rules is a separate matter from actually thinking.

I wish this mother and her child well.

TechnoBabe said...

Not only should the little boy be able to stay with someone who loves him, it has to be a person who at least knows him, not a stranger. How could his mother possible be expected to go to another country and be able to concentrate on her duties when her child is not settled and well cared for, so she cannot be expected to leave her child with just anybody. I read this story a few days ago and it so bothered me then, and I am glad to read your post about this. What a mess.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Warts,

So do I. She is in the battle of her life, and her battlefield is in her own country.

Babe,

Exactly. How can they expect her to perform her duties when she is ridden with anxiety over the fate of her child who is thousands of miles away?

Bob said...

I don't want to defend the Army, but I wonder how many people approach their commander with an excuse as to why they can't deploy. No one wants to go to war (at least, most don't - there's always a few out there...) and I expect that their immediate response is usually - take care of your personal problems, you are deploying with the rest of us.

I too think she did the only thing she could by not showing up, there was no time for her to appeal her situation up the chain of command. The Army also had no choice - she was AWOL. As she's just confined to base (and not in the brig) I agree with Nick, I expect they will low-key this and she won't face any real charges.

The Army isn't a big business, it is a uniquely large entity with special rules and special laws (UCMJ). How many businesses are charged with fighting our wars? (excepting Halliburton, of course) While the military does have the bureaucracy of a large business and the paperwork that goes with it, they have a unique mentality that is so far removed from the corporate mindset it doesn't compare. People don't show up for work, no big deal. people don't show up for war - big, big deal.

Once again, I'm on her side in this - her baby needs a parent. But there are two sides to every story.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I don't believe that there is anything else I could say that hasn't already been said, other than Amen.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Bob,

As always, you are a voice of reason. I am aware that my reaction to this story is visceral -- I am a mother and have never been a soldier. I am in awe of those who are. I have to agree with your argument that the military does not resemble a corporation in any meaningful way, and I do understand their viewpoint in this matter with my head, but my heart breaks for this woman and others who may be in similar situations.

Your points are well-taken and appreciated.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Scarlett,

Well ok, then, if that's your final answer.

Yeah, the ground is well-beaten. No reason to rehash and reword what has already been said.

Molly said...

I saw that too....Couldn't believe anyone could be that cold hearted! If it's a choice between my child's welfare and my commitment to my country, The child would win, hands down. How could you do otherwise??

Jo said...

Hearts, as a Canadian, I can only say that I am appalled at the heartlessness of the U.S. military in putting this Mom into this situation. It would be different if you were defending your country on your shores. Is any wonder that America is seen around the world as a nation that advocates war? There are enough able bodied people to be deployed, leave the single Moms out of it.

I'm really shocked.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Molly,

I think that a person who could do otherwise should not have children.

Jo,

I'm probably repeating myself, but I believe that we could learn some things from our neighbors to the north.

secret agent woman said...

That's horrible. Chani is right - an awful example of "family values."

velvet said...

I was really put out when I read about this case. Putting the child in the foster care system would have been convenient for the armed services, but certainly not right. In the version that I read, they said that she would have been fine if she'd shown up with the child in her arms, but perhaps I'm too much of a skeptic to believe that they'd have shown much compassion.

Laura Lee said...

In the second desert offensive, I knew a few families with young ones, and not once would our commander have suggested such a thing.

I'd like to hope it was just a few unthinking people but seems like it went too far. There are several levels for soldiers to appeal decisions, why was there nobody to step up for her? Shameful.

mrwriteon said...

This kind of thing happens all the time at the AF base in my town. The family services people at the base go nuts dealing with the cruel illogic of it. What sort of society are we trying to preserve?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Agent,

Yes. Truly .

Velvet,

It sounds as if she believed they would show no mercy and was afraid to take a chance. It's hard to blame her for that.

Laura Lee,

To be fair, it's possible she didn't have time to pursue the proper channels since she only learned a few days before her deployment date that her mother couldn't take care of her son.

Ian,

A very good question. What sort indeed?

Stewart Sternberg said...

I've always shaken my head at people who wear those yellow ribbons and shout "Support our troops." I suppose that has meant "back the current militaristic ideology and don't make waves." However, here is a case where a soldier should be supported, and that support should come from people pressuring the military to do what is right. I think it is important to appreciate the dedication and sacrifice of our soldiers. We can ask much of them, but we should never ask them to give their humanity.

Yes, there will be plenty of people who will say she knew what she was getting into, and that she knew the rules ahead of time or should have. They will argue that we can't make exemptions for some and that if she wants, she can leave the service voluntarily.

However, that sort of thinking doesn't solve the problem, does it? It doesn't advance our moral and ethical obligation to our military. And we should always consider that when we ask a soldier to forsake a their humanity in any way, we are giving up a piece of our own, individually and collectively.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Stewart,

I couldn't agree with you more. It is profoundly unfair to demand that one person who is already giving so much to her country just by being in the military also sacrifice her own child's wellbeing.

It is too easy for those of us who are not soldiers to take their service for granted, but doing so compromises our own humanity in ways that can never be repaired. I do not personally believe in this war, but I absolutely support the men and women who have laid their lives on the line for me and all my countrymen, and they have my everlasting admiration and gratitude. The very least we can do is not make their lives more difficult and painful than they already are.

On a limb with Claudia said...

Gosh, I've heard so many awful stories about single parents and their kids. It's just horrible.

Jocelyn said...

Sweet Martha.

I start gasping and swearing when I read stories like this. Thank you for encapsulating it so well and expressing for me the umbrage I feel.

In fact, I'm going to up my opener to this: Jesus Martha.

Odat said...

I'm glad you brought to to our attention...Hopefully it'll help!!!

P.s. Have a wonderful Turkey Day!!


Peace

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Claudia,

Single parenthood is a tough row to hoe. I cannot even imagine adding military responsibilities to that mix.

Jocelyn,

Um, who is Martha?

Mi umbrage es su umbrage.

Odat,

The same to you, lovely one!

seventh sister said...

I would hope that she will find a way to support herself and her baby without being in the military. OF course, I hope that someday we won't think we need a military at all.

C said...

hi hearts... first time here to your blog which is totally awesome as i just read the whole frikking thing! ok, breathe now. that was a long sentance. i love how you write and your sense of humor in the middle of it all. i am adding you to my bloggy list.
i heard about this story and am appalled by the militaries reaction to this mama who is worried sick about her son. WTF? i hope and pray this gets taken care of, the right way. maybe she needs to go on ELLEN. ellen always helps people.

take care,

chris

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sister,

Amen to a world without need of military.

C,

Great idea! I'm an Ellen fan, too.

Thank you for your most kind words, and your visit.

soubriquet said...

Everyone here seems to be pointing a finger at the army as a mean old ogre.

But, quite simply, she entered a job, a calling, that expects you to put aside self, and jump to it without question or hesitation. The military makes no secret of that, from day one, she knew the deal. And deployment is always possible. You can't just choose whether or not to obey orders, you can't just refuse to go somewhere, because it doesn't suit.

The fault lies not with the army, but with the mother, who had not thought through the consequences of having a child whilst being a soldier.
Obviously her own mother could not cope, that's not the army's fault.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Soubriquet,

Everything you say makes sense. The image of a mother having her child ripped from her arms at the deployment terminal because she couldn't get it together to provide good care for him is heart rending, even as I know that if the military cut her a break they might as well close up shop.

It's a difficult situation in which nobody comes out looking good while a small child bears the brunt of it.

Thanks for coming by. Your opinions are always welcome.