Saturday, November 05, 2005

Life of a Professional Soldier Should NOT have to be Burden of Children

Senate Committee Passes Measure on Soldier Custody

Legislation meant to help Military members with child custody battles has been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bills would prevent a court from making a decision about a child's custody based on a parent's separation while serving overseas. It also would prohibit permanent custody from being decided while a parent is deployed overseas. The legislation already passed the State House. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Sadly this is one of those ideas that will have little impact on the problem of GI Joe or (Jane for that matter) losing custody of their children to the non-military parent.

Sorry but that’s the way it is and probably should be.

The Romans recognized this and didn’t allow their professional legionnaires to marry or begin a family until they left Rome’s service. The bottom line is this was obviously even cheaper for the Empire and it’s taxpayers; as they probably didn’t want to have to provide for thousands of widows and orphans in the event of huge battlefield fatalities. Not to mention the emotional impact of thousands of families losing a husband, father and head of household.

One of the ironies of our own lack of realistic discussion vis-à-vis the parent and the military was the news of Cindy Sheehan and her husband having her son’s military life insurance (which at $100,000 was far too high for a military man or woman with no family) as part of their divorce settlement. This is the sort of dollar amount that a man or woman insures themselves for when they have dependents. Not to leave as an unexpected windfall for their parents. Unfortunately because we have allowed so many parents into the military, life insurance had to be raised to reflect this reality.

Previously it was in the $10,000 range, which was adequate as a burial policy and to pay off the few debts that a single soldier might have accumulated.

This is also the same wrong-headed policy that is feeding the ‘custody’ of children problem.

The bottom line is that if you have those sorts of civilian obligations and responsibilities, a high-risk job where you can be deployed to any part of the world, at and for any length of time is NOT the job for you.

When you make the individual decision to choose the life of a professional soldier as your job, you have to expect to forfeit certain civilian privileges. In return you also forfeit certain responsibilities that civilians are burdened with, ie., providing their own food and shelter. Generally the army provides that for you, along with a salary and generous medical care in the event you get injured. Because guess what, chances are you are going to be injured; as you chose a high-risk profession call WAR.

That is why the military, is at it’s best, when it is reserved as a job for the young. You go into it, anywhere from 18 to 22. Put in your 20 years and (for men anyway who are financially, emotionally and biologically at their peak for siring a family anywhere from 30 to 40 years old) retire with some savings, training and a pension that will enable you to take your ‘stake’ and then settle down with a wife and start your family.

The military is NOT a 9:00 to 5:00 job that you put in your 8 hours and then return home to the spouse and the kids to settle down for dinner and helping out with the homework. You are on call to Uncle Sam, day or night, in any part of the world; as the nature of modern war today (and probably it was ever so, even in the time of the ancients) is that you never know where a need will break out and you’ll have to drag out the old battle shield and sword to start marching.

It was never a job for a person burdened with the civilian responsibility of a spouse and/or kids. Actually men, in the time of the ancients anyway, didn’t marry until their 30s (although girls were anywhere from 14 to 19 years olds when they married) so for the ordinary man being a soldier from the ages of about 16 to 30 probably worked out just fine.

I believe that the US has gotten away from this essential fact of a professional soldier’s life. Probably due to the fact that the US had two national emergencies in the last century WWI and WWII where nationwide mobilization had to take place and where parents were forced to get involved in the military. But those were national emergencies. In the ordinary course of events a country of almost 300 million people should have NO reason to have parents running around the battlefield as professional soldiers. Realistically, it’s a whole different set of skills sets.

Not to mention the high risk of injury or even death, which will leave thousands of children traumatized and cost civilians millions of dollars in benefits having to provide for them. I mean just recently I read about a man with ONE LEG and TEN KIDS who volunteered to return to Iraq. Sorry folks as proud as I was that he wished to continue serving his country, for his, ours and most of all for his family’s sakes, he should have been turned down and told to go home and focus on raising his children.

We have to accept that this sort of situation being successful is unrealistic on its face. Human children have one of longest periods of dependency throughout the animal kingdom. Probably the ONLY mammal that has a longer one then human beings is the elephant. A child needs a parent who is going to be physically there for them. Who is going to be there for them every night when they return home, have dinner, help them with homework, out there driving them to the soccer or baseball game every weekend or taking them to grandma…It is impossible to plan to be a consistent part of your childrens lives when you are on call at anytime, anytime to someone else and children need consistency. They need to be the number 1 priority in their parent’s life.

I have wrestled with this issue due to the number of mothers who lose their children due to being enlisted in the service. I do feel very badly for these women.

I’m sorry to say it, however, but I have to conclude that due to the fact that you cannot count on being there for your child, as your life is NOT your own, then you have to expect to forfeit custody if you are in the military.

Sorry mothers, it’s just the way it is.

Changing the laws to continue unrealistic custody arrangements is not going to solve the problem. The military needs to encourage (and ultimately maybe enforce though law) the idea that the life of a professional soldier is not conducive to having children. Beginning a family is a civilian pursuit; which should probably not happen until a soldier is once again a civilian.

Again, mothers, sorry. You would be wise to wait until you leave the military before having children. Probably women who wish to be mothers will not be able to put in the full 20 years for a pension (unless we get a law passed reflecting the biologically shortened time line of women) but until that happens ten or fifteen years is probably the more realistic ‘retirement period’ for women depending upon your age going in.

Custody, if you have children, will probably and should probably, reside with the parent who is the civilian…as they can provide the more stable and consistent environment for the child. If both parents are military, the one who is willing to leave the service should be the one who becomes custodial. Joint custody can apply if both can leave.

Nor should step persons or other relatives EVER be allowed to help a deployed parent continue an unrealistic custodial arrangement.

It’s uniquely American to believe that every problem has a solution where no one has to be hurt, but unfortunately, some problems have ONLY the hard solutions and adults must be prepared to make them or suffer the consequences.

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