Deployment > What happens to the children?
Written by Janet
Whenever both parents, or single, report for duty, who takes care of the children left behind? A good example is the case of Lisa Pagan. Four years ago, she was honorably discharged from the army, but this time, when she reports, she will arrive with more than just her old uniform, she will have her kids too.
She is among thousands of former service members who who have left active duty since the Sept. 11 attacks, only to later receive orders to return to service. They’re not in training, they’re not getting a Defense Department salary, but as long as they have time left on their original enlistment contracts, they’re on “individual ready reserve” status – eligible to be recalled at any time.
Now soldiers can appeal and some have won permission to remain in civilian life. In Pagan’s case, she filed numerous appeals, and all were denied. She argued because her husband travels for business, there’s no one else to take care of the kids. She is left with two options, abandon her children, or refusing to deploy and face charges.
Then she hit on the idea of showing up Sunday at Fort Benning, Ga., with her children in tow. She stated > “I guess they’ll have to contact the highest person at the base, and they’ll have to decide from there what to do,” Pagan said. “I either report and bring the children with me or don’t report and face dishonorable discharge and possibly being arrested. I guess I’ll just have to make my case while I’m there.”
The commander at Fort Benning will have to decide the case. Master Sgt. Keith O’Donnell, says these are people who made obligations and commitments to their country. Of the 25,000 individual ready reserve troops recalled since September 2001, more than 7,500 have been granted deferments or exemptions, O’Donnell said. About 1,000 have failed to report. O’Donnell most of those cases are still under investigation, while 360 soldiers have been separated from the Army either through “other than honorable” discharges or general discharges.
Now Pagan isn’t likely to face charges, as none of the individual ready reserve soldiers who have failed to report faced a court-martial. Pagan, grew up near Camden, N.J., was working in a department store when she made her commitment in September 2002. She learned how to drive a truck, and met Travis while stationed in Hawaii. She had her first child while in uniform, and they left the service in 2005 when their enlistments were up.
The young family settled outside of Charlotte in the college town of Davidson, where Travis landed a job as a salesman. It required lots of travel, but that was OK – Pagan enjoyed her life as a stay-at-home mom to their son Eric and second child, a daughter named Elizabeth. She opened a day care out of her home, and started taking classes at nearby Fayetteville State.
Her orders to return to active duty came in December of 2007. She explained, that she had no one to take care of the children, her husband traveled in his job, and they believe quitting his job is a sure path to bankruptcy and foreclosure. Her parents live in New Jersey and her husband’s parents live in Texas. Neither are able to help out. The Army wasn’t persuaded.
Pagan hired attorney Mark Waple, who filed another appeal, which included a letter from Travis Pagan’s employer that said bluntly: “In order for Travis to remain an employee, he will be required to travel.” In December 2008, her appeal was again rejected. Tom Tarantino, a policy associate with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit group that helps veterans, said the Army has taken a hard line on many of these cases.
Usually the only way to get out of deployment is do to family hardships, and if the children are put into foster care. That’s how serious it has to be, and I’m sure what the military is telling her – and I’m not saying that this is exactly the right answer – but the fact that it is inconvenient for her husband’s job is not the military’s problem. It’s very harsh.