A California woman scheduled to deploy for Afghanistan did not arrive to her departure Nov. 6 because she needed to care for her infant son, according to an Associated Press report.
Twenty-one-year-old Alexis Hutchinson made the right choice in this case. According to the report, she was arrested after she missed her unit’s flight that was going to Afghanistan. She is currently being held in Georgia, which was supposed to be her departure location.
Hutchinson’s decision was obviously a difficult one. According to the report, Hutchinson had asked her mother to care for her 10-month-old son while she was in Afghanistan, but the mother was too busy caring for two ill family members and a daughter with special needs.
This situation did not involve rebellion. Hutchinson said she had no other relatives who were available to watch her son for the length of time she would be deployed. She was in a desperate situation. She literally had no other choice, so she made the one that she had.
It would be easy to say that Hutchinson was sloppy in dealing with the situation, too, but that was not the case, either. According to the AP report, the U.S. Army requires single-parent soldiers to specify a plan in the case that they are deployed. Hutchinson did not fail to do so. She asked her mother to help, but the mother was unable.
The most inconvenient aspect of this situation is the fact that an infant child would be parentless in an important time of life development. If this boy were to spend the first two years of his life with his grandmother he would lack the fundamental connection needed between a mother and a child. Furthermore, because his grandmother would not be able to care for him, he would have to be placed under child protection services, which would land him with an entirely new parent.
Perhaps the most confusing fact surrounding this controversy is the lack of communication between Hutchinson and her authority figures. Clearly, she was under the impression that she would not be allowed to stay in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., even if she could not find an alternative care person for her son. However, the Army does allow single parents without another means of childcare the option of refusing deployment, according to a spokesperson from Hutchinson’s airfield.
For those in the U.S. who experienced the various attempts to evade deployment during the Vietnam War, this situation could seem fishy. If one were to remove the specific factors that made it an ordeal for this young woman, it would appear to be another case of someone tip-toeing past federal regulations.
But Alexis Hutchinson was trapped. First of all, she had to establish her priorities: Was she going to pledge allegiance to family or country first? Then, after choosing to follow through on the obligation she made to her country, she had to figure out where to send her only son. After that failed, she probably panicked. She found herself trapped between the law and her conscience.
There was no fork in the road. She could either hand her son off to strangers, or keep him and put her legal status at risk.
In my anthropology class, I have learned more about the emic and etic perspectives. The emic perspective refers to approaching a social or cultural situation as if one were involved in that situation; in short, “taking a walk in someone else’s shoes.” The etic perspective involves viewing a social or cultural situation by inserting one’s own perspectives and beliefs.
While both are useful in an anthropological context, the emic is the most effective in this case. Alexis Hutchinson’s situation cannot be approached with our own points of view attached. One must take into account the fact that she was dealing with serious consequences, but her moral commitments were more important.
Wyatt Kanyer is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Yakima, Wash.