Here's a quick background story:
- Rebecca Edmonds, life-long Navy brat, decides she wants to serve and follows in the family footsteps.
- Edmonds, a practicing Catholic, applies for a ROTC scholarship, signs contracts and accepts $92k in scholarship money, and attends the Catholic university Marquette.
- Edmonds signed a contract and received no less than eight medical briefs reminding her that she needs to immediately notify her command of a change in her medical status.
- Thirteen weeks before commissioning, Edmonds discovers she's pregnant.
- Unmarried Edmonds decides to keep her baby and is separated from the process, and now has to repay the $92k.
Before I weigh in on this particular story, let me share something with my single moms out there - if you are a single parent, you cannot serve on active duty. The Reserves and Guard are different. I had a number of single mothers in my flight at BMT, but that is because we were mainly Guard and Reserve. There are opportunities for single mothers to serve in the Air Force. Granted, I'm assuming that if you're a single mother there may be opportunities to switch to active duty in the future if you marry, but that is something only your recruiter can confirm. As a Reservist, you could potentially get an ART (Active Reserve Technician) position where you'd work a government job in a squadron as a full-time employee, so you could work in the Air Force full-time. Bottom line, Edmonds could serve her country as an officer in the Air Force, although she wouldn't be able to do so on active duty as long as she's a single parent.
The article presents this story in a very skewed fashion, not surprisingly. I think this is a case of a girl from a privileged family thinking the rules didn't apply to her. I'm making the assumption that her family is fairly well-to-do, given her dad's career as a Naval officer (not to mention the fact that they've hired a military attorney to fight this dismissal). Like I mentioned before, there were single mothers in my flight at BMT and they knew that active duty wasn't an option due to their marital status. This is not shocking, and clearly Edmonds knew the same based on the information presented in the article where she kept hesitating to tell her leadership. The Air Force has made a blanket policy that single mothers (and I'm assuming single parents with custodial rights in general) can't serve on active duty, period. Regardless of whether or not you have a supportive family that's planning to drop everything if you deploy, it's a no-no. There have been too many issues in the past with service members who've had family care plans fall apart, who then go AWOL or refuse to deploy. I completely understand why a blanket policy helps cover our butts.
When a young adult accepts a ROTC scholarship or an appointment to the Air Force Academy, they make the commitment to repay that scholarship money by serving a specified number of years. [Cadets at the Academy must be single, childfree, and under the age of 23.] My brother had to make the same agreement when he went that route. If you fail to fulfill the contractual agreement, you have to repay the money. Edmonds clearly dismissed the seriousness of her contract and the eight medical briefs she received. I firmly believe that if she was that strong in her faith that she didn't believe in birth control or abortion, she shouldn't have been having sex with her boyfriend. I question her priorities and motivation. If I were thirteen weeks away from finishing my degree and commissioning, I wouldn't be jeopardizing my future by having unprotected sex. I would be chomping at the bit to get my butter bars and learn of my first duty station.
Edmonds chose to keep her baby, as a single mother. She made a choice that negated another. She chose motherhood over commissioning as an active duty officer. She can't have it all, just like I can't have it all, nor could the single mothers in my flight. While I waited in the DEP program, I took extreme precautions to not get pregnant, knowing that it would be a deal-breaker for me and my enlistment. That's what responsible adults do.
A friend of Mrs. H's put it best. It boils down to the Air Force Core Value of Service Before Self. Apparently Edmonds didn't realize that we take our Core Values pretty seriously. If you can't live them, you can't lead by example. I'm not even suggesting that she should've gotten an abortion here. She chose sexual gratification over active duty service. Clearly her military service wasn't her top priority and source of motivation.
[The opinions expressed within this post are my own, and do not reflect the position of the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, or the Department of Defense. If you have questions about your own eligibility for service, please contact your nearest recruiter.]