Lisa Pagan was honorably discharged from the Army four years ago. She settled down and had two children with husband Travis. Everything was wonderful until she received an order to return to service.
That order can be issued at anytime for the thousands of former service members who have time left on their original enlistment contracts. It doesn’t matter that they are not getting a salary or training, they are on “individual ready reserve” status, property of the United States.
Lisa Pagan is reporting to duty on Sunday with a little extra packaging, her two children. She has no choice. Husband Travis travels for work and there is no one else who can take care of the children. Pagan tried to appeal the order but her claim was rejected. That left her with two choices; refuse the order and face charges or deploy to Iraq and abandon her children. She decided to shake things up instead. The kids are coming with her to Fort Benning, Georgia on sunday.
The Lakeland Ledger reports:
“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.”
When she gets to the base her commander will have to decide what to do with her. 7,500 of the 25,000 ready reserve troops who have been recalled since 2001 have been granted deferments or exemptions. About a thousand have refused to report to duty. While the chances are high that Pagan won’t face charges she could be given an “other than honorable” discharge.
“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.”
It’s not that Pagan hasn’t given time to protect the US. She joined the service in September 2002 and served until 2005. She met her husband Travis while they were both stationed in Hawaii. She always knew she could be recalled but to survive she buried that information in the back of her mind.
“When I enlisted, they said almost nobody gets called back when you’re in the IRR,” she said.
Travis got a job as a salesman near Charlotte, North Carolina in the college town of Davidson. Lisa enjoyed the pleasures of being a stay-at-home mom to Eric, 3, and Elizabeth, 4. She opened a home daycare and started taking a few classes at Fayetteville State.
She first got the return orders in December 2007. She told the Army that no one could take care of her kids. If Travis quit his job to be at home with the children the family would face bankruptcy and foreclosure. The couples parents live in New Jersey and Texas and are not able to help out with child care.
The Army didn’t care then. She filed another appeal after hiring lawyer Mark Waple including a letter from Travis’s employer.
“In order for Travis to remain an employee, he will be required to travel.”
The answer from that appeal came in December. Rejected.
So Lisa Pagan will appear before her commanding officer today with Eric and Elizabeth. That commander will have to decide if he wants to ship a mother to Iraq and put two children into the foster care program.
“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.”
Let’s hope for Eric and Elizabeth’s sake the commander thinks with his heart and not with the rule books.