UPDATED REPORT: NC Mom Who Took Kids To Army Wins Discharge

An attorney for a North Carolina mother who reported for Army duty at Fort Benning, Georgia, with her two young children said Monday she will be discharged from the military, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The AJC reports Lisa Pagan's attorney said it was not clear whether his client would get an honorable or general discharge under honorable conditions, and when the discharge might happen.

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Attorney Mark Waple said Monday that Lisa Pagan was scheduled to meet Monday morning with commanders at Fort Benning, Ga. Waple said she took her children along with her to the base for the meeting.

Pagan was recalled to the Army four years after being honorably discharged, which is allowed under the military's "individual ready reserve" program. But she says she has no one to care for her children, and had to bring them with her when reporting as ordered.

Waple said he didn't know if Pagan's case would be resolved Monday, but said the meeting represents "the next step toward some kind of resolution."

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DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP) -- When Lisa Pagan reports for duty Sunday, four long years after she was honorably discharged from the Army, she'll arrive with more than her old uniform. She's 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 attacks, only to later receive orders to return to service. They're not in training, they're not getting a Defense Department salary, but as long as they have time left on their original enlistment contracts, they're 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, Ga., with her children in tow.

"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."

Master Sgt. Keith O'Donnell, an Army spokesman in St. Louis, said the commander at Fort Benning will decide how to handle the situation.

"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."

Of the 25,000 individual ready reserve troops recalled since September 2001, more than 7,500 have been granted deferments or exemptions, O'Donnell said. About 1,000 have failed to report. O'Donnell most of those cases are still under investigation, while 360 soldiers have been separated from the Army either through "other than honorable" discharges or general discharges.

He said Pagan isn't likely to face charges, since none of the individual ready reserve soldiers who have failed to report faced a court-martial.

Pagan, who grew up near Camden, N.J., was working in a department store when she made her commitment in September 2002. She learned how to drive a truck, and met Travis while stationed in Hawaii. She had her first child while in uniform, and they left the service in 2005 when their enlistments were up.

She always knew there was a chance she could be recalled, so she buried the thought in the back of her mind.

"When I enlisted, they said almost nobody gets called back when you're in the IRR," she said.

The young family settled outside of Charlotte in the college town of Davidson, where Travis landed a job as a salesman. It required lots of travel, but that was OK - Pagan enjoyed her life as a stay-at-home mom to their son Eric and second child, a daughter named Elizabeth.

She opened a child-care center in her home, and started taking classes at nearby Fayetteville State.

The orders to return to active duty arrived in December 2007. She told the Army there was no one to take care of her children: Her husband spent most of his time on the road, and they believe quitting his job is a sure path to bankruptcy and foreclosure. Her parents live in New Jersey and her husband's parents live in Texas. Neither are able to help out. The Army wasn't persuaded.

Pagan hired attorney Mark Waple, who filed another appeal, which included a letter from Travis Pagan's employer that said bluntly: "In order for Travis to remain an employee, he will be required to travel." In December 2008, her appeal was again rejected.

"It's the obligation of commanders to make certain that service members have a valid family care plan and that clearly has not happened in Lisa's case," Waple said.

Tom Tarantino, a policy associate with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonprofit group that helps veterans, said the Army has taken a hard line on many of these cases.

"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."

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  • by Enough Already on Mar 7, 2009 at 07:12 AM
    VeteranWomanMarine, save the feminist rhetoric. First of all, if you can read beyond the oath of enlistment, you will see that a friend of mine said that, not me. I do, however, agree 100%. And since you a former so-called "hero", you may remember that is your job to defend the Constitution, which includes The Bill Of Rights. The first of which includes provisions covering freedom of speech. If you don't like other people's comments, then don't read them.
  • by Taryn Location: Colorado on Mar 5, 2009 at 08:31 PM
    What on earth makes this woman so special. Being an Army wife, daughter, and sister, I can say this upsets me a lot. She needs to full fill her duty and obligations. Any other family would get told the same thing, find a family member or friend to take care of your children. Nobody's going to bring my husband home because I travel for my work. This woman makes me sick. She should have gone. I guess next time they send my husband to Iraq, or Korea, for a year I will give him all 3 of our children, have him cry that the youngest has Autism, my wife has a job,and we don't have family in the state and maybe he won't have to go. The government should have given her choice. Go or lose all your rights. Maybe then it would have been reason enough. Then again I guess she (and everyone that agrees with her) can just leaves it up to all our soldiers.
  • by VeteranWomanMarine Location: Jacksonville on Mar 5, 2009 at 12:12 PM
    RE:Enough Already:.... Your comment about how women are not soldiers and such is a bunch of BS. Women have just as much right as men to be in the military. We can do what every man can do as well. I have had my fair share of action and my actions were some better than my fellow male Marines. Women are treated the same as the men even at P.I. So your little comment is not needed and if I were your wife, I would kick your behind to the curb. No woman should have to deal with a husband that thinks she should only cook, clean, and do all the work. BS man.... If you are married, I don't know how. Your point of views on women are rude!!!
  • by VeteranWomanMarine Location: Jacksonivlle on Mar 5, 2009 at 09:36 AM
    I feel that now she has been able to get away with this, many more service members are going to use her case an example. I feel if she signed the contract, she knew she would be on IRR for another 4 years. Thats basic contracts... Maybe her husband needs to step in and realize that his job can be on hold (at least all of the traveling) and take care of their kids while she continues her contract. I was recalled as well, but they would not let me back due to just having a baby, otherwise, I would love to serve our country again. She needs a wake up call and I hope they give her an OTH instead of Honorable... she is being a coward in my opinion... But again, this is only my opinion and I do not know all the facts on this so called soldier.
  • by The Old School Army on Mar 5, 2009 at 09:07 AM
    Oh, and JKnowItAll, you're nothing but a civilian. Know your place and at ease.
  • by The Old School Military on Mar 5, 2009 at 09:04 AM
    Alison in Havelock- You have not taken an oath of enlistment. So, you DO NOT wear your husband's rank. Despite what Robin Meade on CNN or Oprah says, you do not. And, judging by the appearance of some of these wives, they need to lay off of the Krispy Kremes or enlist to get in shape. Hence the term "flabby dependants", which was the subject of a scathing and controversial letter to the editor of The Stars And Stripes Eurpean Edition in 1992. Programs such Army Family Team Building were created in the 1990's to help familiy members, but a few are power hungry and believe that they have a voice in military affairs. I agree 100% with "Enough Already".
  • by Enough Already. on Mar 5, 2009 at 08:26 AM
    An old friend once told me that "Women are not soldiers. Thee are simply an experiment in social equality." You wives who think you wera you husband's rank need to take heed. You have no authority or jurisdiction. All you can do is bake cookies, wrap yourselves in the flag, and attempt to stay faithful. I know that is the new PC military and is more family friendly than ever, but know where your place is and learn to keep your mouths shut.
  • by Cindy Location: Williamston on Mar 5, 2009 at 06:12 AM
    I totally agree with E-9 Retired Marine. She knew when she joined the Army what this meant. It's in her contract that you can be called up a certain time after discharge. Bases have daycares, and really great ones might I add. There is no excuse for her to back out. There are plenty of women over seas right now fighting in Iraq with small children at home. I'm sure there are husbands and wifes over there who have had to leave their kids with family members. It's there job!! I have so much respect for our military, but no respect for this woman! Would a man in the same situation been allowed to get out? I think not! If they let this happen women in the military who find it's not what they expected will be getting knocked up just to get out of duty which I'm sure already happens a lot. And I am a woman with 4 children and they come first in my life, but I didn't sign a contract with Uncle Sam. I too think she should pay back what's left of her GI Bill if she gets out. Unfair!
  • by Brandi Location: Washington on Mar 5, 2009 at 04:05 AM
    I am so happy for her. It really makes me mad that they do this when there are so many soliders who have never deployed and are active. And when some soliders do 3 to 4 tours over in Iraq.
  • by Alison Location: Havelock on Mar 5, 2009 at 03:39 AM
    To anonymous who posted on march 3 at 12:22 pm..You best believe that I wear my husband's rank and uniform. I am expected to act and think a certain because of the rank my husband wears. I may not put that uniform on everyday like he does but when he is fighting for our freedom I am the one who takes care of his house, his kids, his bills, his belongings, and anything else that may arise. I support him in everything that he does. I have to endure the hardships of life here without him. So before you open your mouth about military wives you need to become one to realize exactly what we go through. Hats off to all of us who are military wives who support their husbands in everything they do for people like anonymous. Stand proud and wear your husband's rank and uniform proudly! As we call it "The Silent Ranks"!

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