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Should this mom be forced into active duty? Should single parents be deployed?

Mom: Deployment leaves no one to care for kids

 

DAVIDSON, N.C. – When Lisa Pagan reports for duty Sunday, four long years after she was honorably discharged from the Army, she'll arrive with more than her old uniform. She's bringing her kids, too.

"I have to bring them with me," she said. "I don't have a choice."

Pagan is among thousands of former service members 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.

Soldiers can appeal, and some have won permission to remain in civilian life. Pagan filed several appeals, arguing that because her husband travels for business, no one else can take care of her kids. All were rejected, leaving Pagan with what she says is a choice between deploying to Iraq and abandoning her family, or refusing her orders and potentially facing charges.

Then she hit on the idea of showing up Sunday at Fort Benning, Ga., with her children in tow.

"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."

Master Sgt. Keith O'Donnell, an Army spokesman in St. Louis, said the commander at Fort Benning will decide how to handle the situation.

"The Army tries to look at the whole picture and they definitely don't want to do anything that jeopardizes the family or jeopardizes the children," O'Donnell said. "At the same time, these are individuals who made obligations and commitments to the 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.

He said Pagan isn't likely to face charges, since none of the individual ready reserve soldiers who have failed to report faced a court-martial.

Pagan, who 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.

She always knew there was a chance she could be recalled, so she buried the thought in the back of her mind.

"When I enlisted, they said almost nobody gets called back when you're in the IRR," she said.

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 a daughter named Elizabeth.

She opened a child-care center in her home, and started taking classes at nearby Fayetteville State.

The orders to return to active duty arrived in December 2007. She told the Army there was no one to take care of her children: Her husband spent most of his time on the road, 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.

"It's the obligation of commanders to make certain that service members have a valid family care plan and that clearly has not happened in Lisa's case," Waple said.

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 that someone can get out of the deployment or get out of the military due to a family hardship is if they get into a situation where the kids will be put into foster care," Tarantino said.

"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."

by on Mar. 2, 2009 at 1:24 AM
Replies (21-30):
Amandi23
by on Mar. 2, 2009 at 12:08 PM

 My mother got pregnant with me while serving overseas in Italy she stayed on in Italy and I was born there she was a single mom and continued her stay in Italy with me until I was two and she was sent to a navel base in South Carolina. She  got maried when I was four and her active duty was over shortly after that she joined the reserves. My point is that my mom did it , yes not in a war time but she carried out her commitment. This woman has a partner who can help with there children and should . It is unfortunate but she must've known the risks involved with joining.

CharmaineL
by Bronze Member on Mar. 2, 2009 at 1:27 PM

What a tough situation.  Hopefully the right outcome will arise.

lilyrose73
by on Mar. 2, 2009 at 1:29 PM

She signed a contract.  It sucks for her, but she has to fulfill her commitment.

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rnjMOM
by Rachel on Mar. 2, 2009 at 1:40 PM

I agree she should have to go.  When you are honorably discharged you are warned about the IRR. I know, I was in the military and deployed TWICE with two children. While deployed both times my husband was also Active Duty. One deployment he was a recruiter which meant long hours and extra sitters. He barely saw the kids with their eyes open. That is part of being in the military and the sacrafice of living a military lifestyle.  

It is part of the contract that you sign. Even spending 4 years in, she should have known better, and should have known that she would have to go if called back up.  Her husband does not have to quit his job, but they should find someone to take care of the children.  I am not saying it is right, but WOW. 

Bottom line, she was briefed when she got out about the IRR. Everyone is.  She should have known better. She is making a mockery of all the soldiers that are really single parents who sacrafice for their country. No one wants to leave their children, why is she dragging them all the way there to prove a point? To me this is ridiculous.

sassyandy124
by Bronze Member on Mar. 2, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    When you join the military, it is made very clear that your service (length of contract) is NOT just your active duty time. IRR is in place for a reason when you separate you are reminded many times that you MUST stay ready until your contract is up. They tell you straight out, don't get rid of your uniforms, don't get out of shape etc...To those who say she served her time, NO she did NOT. Your full contract includes our IRR. You do NOT get your final discharge papers until after IRR is served. You are 'separated' NOT discharged after active duty. 

   You are told very clearly multiple times that you MUST have a plan in place in case you are deployed unexpectedly. Single parents are told this, married parents, everyone. You are told if you have a child after you join you must have a plan and someone who can be a legal guardian for your dependants. In most cases this is the other parent, in some it's the bf/gf, g-parents or trusted friend. This was NOT a surprise, she knew what the  requirements were before she signed. Just because it's "inconvenient" for her now does NOT mean she should get special treatment. Yes she should go or be sued for breach of contract.  

   Those who can't get behind our troops should feel free to stand in front of them!!!!!

gacgbaker
by on Mar. 2, 2009 at 3:52 PM


Quoting sassyandy124:

    When you join the military, it is made very clear that your service (length of contract) is NOT just your active duty time. IRR is in place for a reason when you separate you are reminded many times that you MUST stay ready until your contract is up. They tell you straight out, don't get rid of your uniforms, don't get out of shape etc...To those who say she served her time, NO she did NOT. Your full contract includes our IRR. You do NOT get your final discharge papers until after IRR is served. You are 'separated' NOT discharged after active duty. 

   You are told very clearly multiple times that you MUST have a plan in place in case you are deployed unexpectedly. Single parents are told this, married parents, everyone. You are told if you have a child after you join you must have a plan and someone who can be a legal guardian for your dependants. In most cases this is the other parent, in some it's the bf/gf, g-parents or trusted friend. This was NOT a surprise, she knew what the  requirements were before she signed. Just because it's "inconvenient" for her now does NOT mean she should get special treatment. Yes she should go or be sued for breach of contract.  

I agree, this is a very rough situation for all parties, but for married moms or dads it doesn't make it easier to leave nessisarily... they all have to be responsable to get things in order.  Its like singing up for a job that tells you they may require you to travel, then saying "opps can't do it", you knew what was a possiblity when you went into it... that doesn't make it easy, but plans must be in order. 

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tiggerrrt
by on Mar. 2, 2009 at 4:04 PM

You sign a contract its up to you to fulfill the contract...no matter what changes in your life.  She has a husband and he is the father and should be responsible for his children while he wife is deployed.

Should single parents be deployed?  Were they in the military when they became parents?  IF so yes...you sign up you should be prepared to go to war...NO matter what the recruiter tells you if you are in the military there is ALWAYS a chance you will go to war.

Women want the same rights in the military as males...they need to make the same commitment

Armywife6
by Member on Mar. 2, 2009 at 10:17 PM

In one word YES she should go. She signed the papers point blank & simple. My husband deployed for 15 months & guess what I was completly in charge of our son while he was gone. Her husband is completly capable of doing the same. Kids are not a way out of deploying & if she wants to turn it into a reason she's asking for trouble. If she didn't want to deploy she shouldn't have joined.

cherieb10
by New Member on Mar. 3, 2009 at 12:07 AM

No,  I think she sould not be forced to go. I think they need to reconsider the lists the have, and go from there. There is too many that would love to go back, take them first. Leave her to raise her kids. No one can replace a mom. 

misskimmy62
by on Mar. 3, 2009 at 2:25 AM

All she needs to do is have a Dr say she is "pre-diabetic" - that is what the two (active duty) men did who were ahead of my husband in the line to go to Iraq.... funny how these pesky medical issues can just pop up, when you are called to do a crappy job.

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