February 12, 2010
Single Mother Is Spared Court-Martial
Specialist Hutchinson’s mother, Angelique Hughes, had a child of her own at home and was also caring for a sick sister while running a day care center from her home in Oakland, Calif. Feeling overwhelmed, Ms. Hughes took the boy back to Savannah, Ga., where Specialist Hutchinson was based, and begged her to find someone else.
That is when Specialist Hutchinson did what might seem natural to a parent but to the Army was a serious offense: she stayed home with her child and missed her flight to
On Thursday, Specialist Hutchinson received an other-than-honorable discharge, ending an impasse that had surprised many legal experts and spurred lively debate in military circles.
In a news release, the Third Infantry Division at
The statement asserted that evidence from other soldiers and Specialist Hutchinson herself indicated that she “didn’t intend to deploy to
Rai Sue Sussman, Specialist Hutchinson’s lawyer in
Legal experts said it would have been extraordinary if Specialist Hutchinson had been court-martialed over child care issues, saying they could not recall a similar case. However, hundreds and perhaps thousands of soldiers have been administratively discharged for such problems in recent years.
Some legal experts speculated that Specialist Hutchinson’s commanders threatened court-martial to send a message to other single-parent soldiers in the brigade. Last year, more than 10,000 single parents on active military duty deployed overseas.
“It could be that they have a ton of single parents and deploy regularly and can’t afford to have disruptions like this,” said Michelle M. Lindo McCluer, a former Air Force lawyer who is now director of the National Institute of Military Justice, a nonprofit group in
In its statement, the Third Infantry Division noted that there were many other single parents or dual-military families in Specialist Hutchinson’s unit who deployed to
Single parents are required to file family care plans months before deployment. In her plan, Specialist Hutchinson listed her mother as a long-term caregiver and in October she used a two-week leave to take her son to
But it took only a few sleepless nights of caring for the infant for Ms. Hughes, 42, to decide she was in over her head. “I was working a full day and then staying up all night with Kamani,” she said.
Ms. Hughes said that she called Specialist Hutchinson’s company commander to explain the problem and that he said the specialist could delay deployment for 30 days to find alternative care. But apparently the delay was never granted because Specialist Hutchinson was arrested in November when she returned to her post, Hunter Army Airfield, a day after missing her flight to
Kevin Larson, a spokesman for
The legal wrangling over Specialist Hutchinson’s case stirred much discussion on blogs, with sympathizers wondering why the Army would prosecute a parent struggling with child care problems and critics questioning the soldier’s motives.
Ms. Hughes has heard some of that criticism firsthand. “People have said to me: ‘She signed this contract. She’s supposed to go. That’s her first priority,’ ” Ms. Hughes said. “My response is: ‘I don’t think so. This is her child. This is her family. This is her priority. The military is a job.’ ”
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs