No matter how loyal one is to the military, there’s not a parent alive who can’t sympathize with the predicament of Alexis Hutchinson, a 21-year-old single mother and army cook who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because she had no one to care for her son. Hutchinson is currently confined to Hunter Army Field in Georgia and may face criminal charges, depending on what the Army’s investigators turn up.
The Army requires all singe-parent soldiers to submit a care plan for their children. Hutchinson had previously submitted such a plan, which involved leaving her 10-month-old son Kamani with her mother, Angelique Hughes. But after caring for Kamani for two weeks, Hughes decided it was simply not possible for her to take care of a baby, since she is already caring for three relatives with health problems and she runs a daycare out of her home.
Hutchinson told her superiors that she was having trouble finding childcare, and according to her lawyer, one of her commanders told her she would have to deploy anyway and put her child in foster care. “For her it was like, ‘I couldn’t abandon my child,'” Hutchinson’s lawyer said. “She was really afraid of what would happen, that if she showed up they would send her to Afghanistan anyway and put her son with child protective services.”
But an Army spokesperson claims that no single parent would be deployed if she didn’t have someone to care for her son. No matter what, he says, Hutchinson should have showed up for her deployment as scheduled.
Even if the grandmother were able to care for the baby, many tours of duty are being extended to as long as 17 months. It’s devastating to imagine Hutchinson being separated from her son for such a long period, though that of course happens all the time as we continue our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I don’t pretend to have a solution to this heartrending situation. Clearly, soldiers cannot simply ignore their deployments with no consequences. But it does make me see clearly the problems with our “all-volunteer” army. I certainly have no interest in seeing my loved ones (or myself) compulsively sent overseas, but if the military is stressed so thin that children could have to be placed in foster care, it seems that it’s only right for us all to bear the brunt of a war our tax dollars support.
How do you think the Army should handle Hutchinson’s case?
Photo: AP/Alexis Hutchinson