Soldier mom plans to report for duty with kids
N.C. woman settles on alternative to leaving family behind, refusing orders
When Lisa Pagan reports for duty Sunday, four long years after she was honorably discharged from the Army, she will arrive with more than her old uniform. She is 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, 2001, attacks, only to later receive orders to return to service. They are not in training, they are not getting a Defense Department salary, but as long as they have time left on their original enlistment contracts, they are 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, Georgia, with her children in tow.
The North Carolina mother who reported for Army duty with her two young children will be discharged from the military, her attorney said Monday. Attorney Mark Waple of Fayetteville said it wasn't yet clear if Lisa Pagan would receive an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions. It also wasn't certain when she would be discharged.
The reason for the discharge will be that she doesn't have, and cannot have, an adequate family care for her two young children, he said.
"There is definitely some feeling of relief, especially since she has been led to believe that the command at Fort Benning is going to do everything to expedite this so she can return to Charlotte, North Carolina, with her children," Waple said of Pagan's reaction to the decision.
She has received no time line "except they are trying to process it as quickly as possible," he said.
He advised Pagan against talking to reporters until after the discharge is official.
Fort Benning spokesman Bob Purtiman could not confirm Monday whether Pagan's commanders were discharging her. He said she was being issued a uniform, undergoing medical and dental screenings and filling out paperwork like any other soldier.
"As far as her disposition, right now the case is being reviewed by the chain of command," Purtiman said. "Specific actions the chain of command are considering will not be discussed because that would violate her privacy rights."
Pagan was recalled to the Army four years after being released from active duty, which is allowed under the military's "individual ready reserve" program. But she says she had no one to care for her children.
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. Her appeals were rejected.
So she reported for duty Monday at Fort Benning, Ga., with her children, 5-year-old Elizabeth and 3-year-old Eric.
. . .
Pagan is among thousands of former service members recalled after leaving duty since the Sept. 11 attacks because they're on "individual ready reserve" status, meaning they have time left on their original enlistment contracts and can be recalled at any time.
Master Sgt. Keith O'Donnell, an Army spokesman in St. Louis, has said that of the 25,000 individual ready reserve troops recalled since September 2001, more than 7,500 have been granted deferments or exemptions.
About 1,000 have failed to report, and most of those cases are still under investigation, he said. Another 360 soldiers have been separated from the Army either through "other than honorable" discharges or general discharges.
From what I've heard, 1,000 is a ridiculously low estimate.
I applaud Lisa Pagan for her plan, which not only won her the discharge she deserved but highlights the intolerable situation of IRR activation.