MSNBC/AP have a rather sad story:

Holcomb, 30, and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Vaughn Holcomb, 40, lived with their children at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs when both were sent to Iraq in February.

Family members were taking care of their children, but the couple returned on emergency leave in September when Vaughn Holcomb̢۪s ex-wife went to court to get full custody of two of the children from their previous marriage.

judge said one of the Holcombs had to remain home or they would lose custody. Simone Holcomb said she decided to stay because she is a reservist while her husband has 20 years of active-duty service and is near retirement.

She also said her husband, a tank platoon sergeant with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, would be more sorely missed by his unit. He is now back in Iraq.

The Army requires two-soldier families to agree on custody plans before deployments so that children are taken care of, said Col. Rich Thomas of Army Forces Central Command in Atlanta.

My guess is the Army will decide not to prosecute, which is probably the right decision. That said, a rather obvious question arises: Why are both of them, voluntarily, in the Army? The very purpose of the Army is to prepare for and fight our country’s wars. Deployment to war is, therefore, a rather real possibility. Mrs. Holcombe could certainly have gotten out of the Reserves at any point before the deployment orders came in without much difficulty. So, why was she taking her Army paycheck if she wasn’t willing to be deployed? It’s not like she didn’t have the kids then.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Sorry- I’m as right wing as they come but I think you are being unfair. They both went when called.

    They had no realistic expectation that the ex would do such a thing and that the (moronic) judge would rule this way.

    If it was just plain AWOL, shoot her.

    This ain’t that.

  2. James Joyner says:

    But the ex and the judge are right: Someone needs to be there to raise the kids.

  3. Paul says:

    The herring is down right crimson.

    The kids are with family.

  4. SwampWoman says:

    I’m behind the service members on this one. Having kids taken care of by family members while being on deployment isn’t unusual in the military, and I’m glad that we had two family members willing to serve. I think the judge was wrong. (Speaking as ex-military.)

  5. James Joyner says:

    But the judge isn’t in the military; he’s simply charged with doing what’s in the best interests of the children. If the parents are going to be deployed for a year at a time at any point–because of choices they voluntarily made–then it’s quite arguable that they are better off with their mother, presuming she’s an otherwise fit parent who’s going to remain at home. For one parent to be a member of the military, willing to go off on deployments and risk death, is admirable. For both to do it is downright irresponsible. They’ve got a household of kids that they’re responsible for: that’s priority one.

  6. Jem says:

    One nit on your comment that she “could certainly have gotten out of the Reserves at any point before the deployment orders came in without much difficulty.” Her ability to leave the reserves during the past several years depends upon her specialty. For example, I’ve been a reservist for almost five years (after a decade on active duty) and have been stop-lossed for a large part of that time (for a few months during/after the Kosovo campaign and then for over a year during/after operations in Afghanistan and Iraq). Stop-loss precludes my resigning from the reserves unless there is a change in my status (like a crippling injury) that would prevent my serving if called.

  7. James Joyner says:


    That’s a valid point. My understanding is that there have been windows in stop-loss, but maybe not one that was available to her. Nothing in the story indicates that she had been trying to get out, though.

  8. SwampWoman says:

    Durn, James, we can only hope that if safety is a criteria for having children that she will not move to Washington, D.C., where it appears that the odds of Americans getting killed are AT LEAST as high as in Iraq. (Projected homicides 325 for year 2003.) I didn’t check out the toll for ALL forms of death; for all I know, taking a bath could be a pretty dangerous activity in Washington D.C. (The death toll in Iraq includes the feller from my county who went swimming and drowned, for example.)

    Of course, workplace fatalities in the USA (including homicides and traffic accidents) amounted to 5,524 last year, so working itself is inherently unsafe. Both parents should probably be prohibited from driving anywhere together, because the traffic fatality toll was over 8,000 last year….I wonder if both parents should be prohibited from working in the same high-rise building? Potentially dangerous, if you ask me (G).

    I suppose we will agree to disagree. She did what she had to do, but unfortunately it looks as though her career in the reserves has been ruined, her discharge will be less than honorable, and she will have to carry that stigma for life. She and her husband had plans for childcare when they were on deployment, as required by the military. A judge took exception to it. Apparently prior to the deployment, both service members were considered more fit to take care of the children than the ex. In a couple of years the point would have been moot because her husband would have been retired and she would have been the only one going on deployment (if the reserves were called up again during her remaining service life, that is).