A 21 year-old Army cook and single mother, Hutchinson made headlines for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan, saying she had no one to care for her 10 month-old son during the year she was scheduled to be overseas. She is no longer in a relationship with her child’s father, and her overwhelmed mother was unable to keep baby Kamani.
The Army gave Hutchinson a 30-day extension to work out a new child care plan. More than a month later, when the soldier-mom defied orders to board her unit’s flight to Afghanistan, she was arrested by military police and briefly jailed, while Kamani spent the night in the care of child services.
According to the Army, parent-soldiers who can’t find suitable caregivers for their children can be disciplined--or honorably discharged. Hutchinson’s lawyer insists that her client is not using motherhood as a ploy for discharge, and is simply torn by competing responsibilities to serve her country and raise her son. “These women are given a choice which is a very bad one to face,” said the lawyer, “Deploying and abandoning your children, or refusing your orders and facing charges.”
More that 30,000 single mother soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army says Alexis Hutchinson is not entitled to special treatment. Blogs and message boards have been swamped with opinions. “She should get a dishonorable discharge,” was a common sentiment. “Once you enlist, you give up the right to decide if you will or will not fight,” one person wrote. “I would not want to be in a war zone and be depending on her to protect my life,” another said. “How many thousands of men would love not to have to be deployed because they are fathers?” asked a grandfather whose son is serving in Afghanistan.
But others defended the mother who refused to go to war. “If she can’t find acceptable placement for her child, she should not deploy…this is really a no-brainer,” said one. “My hat is off to this young lady for getting her priorities in order,” wrote another. Since she’s not going to “contribute much to defeating the Taliban,” another reasoned, it’s “worth it” to let her stay home and raise her child to “become a contributing member of society.”
Tell us what you think: Under the circumstances, what should Alexis Hutchinson’s first responsibility be—serving her country, or staying with her baby? Should parents be deployed to combat areas?