Single Parents and Army Deployment.
by Meredith O'Brien
If it seemed as though it was ripped from news headlines, that’s because it was.
A recent storyline on Army Wives dramatized the plight of the military’s single parents – who become single parents after having joining the armed services – and how difficult it is for them to find childcare for their offspring when they’re slated to deploy abroad and can’t take the kid with them.
Given that the Associated Press, citing government officials, said “there are more than 70,500 single parents on active duty in the U.S. military, about 5 percent of all service members,” the issue of single parents in the Army having to find childcare isn’t a teeny tiny problem as the United States continues to conduct wars on two fronts and needs soldiers to fight them. The New York Times also reported that more than 100,000 female soldiers who have served/are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are mothers, adding, “The vast majority are primary caregivers, and a third are single mothers.”
“I couldn’t show up to the tarmac with Maddie in my arms.”
Those were the words of fictional Army Specialist Amber Stiles who was arrested on the Charleston Army post when she didn’t report for her overseas deployment on Army Wives. Her 2-year-old daughter was taken into state custody where officials later threatened to find the girl new adoptive parents because her mother faced jail time for going AWOL. “My mother was going to take care of her in Tallahassee, that’s my hometown,” Stiles told Army Wives’ Claudia Joy Holden, wife of the post commander and a law school student completing her legal degree. “But she got sick and had to back out . . . She’s on dialysis now, three times a week.”
“I tried to find someone in Charleston, neighbors, people from church,” Stiles continued, noting that when she first learned of her pregnancy, the baby daddy took off. When the deployment extension that Army officials had given her to straighten out her childcare situation ran out, Stiles, who’d gone to Florida in a last-ditch attempt to try to locate a caregiver, returned to Charleston and was arrested by military police. “All I wanted was to be a good soldier and a good mother,” Stiles said. “Why can’t I be both?”