- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My jailbird daughter is joining the Army, and I am afraid for her. The Army recruiter told her to lie about her background so he could get her in. He also told her not to say that she has a son. Why can’t my daughter say she has a son? Why does she have to lie about her criminal record? (Her record is for stealing goods from a store she once worked at and also for being an accessory to a crime; she was driving the getaway car for her crazy boyfriend, who was robbing a store.)

I told my daughter it is wrong to lie about her background. I think she is a good girl who got caught up with the wrong people. My husband (her father) is retired Army, and I am a schoolteacher. My daughter grew up on military installations, was always active in many organizations, and was in the honor society in school. She went to college but got pregnant in her first year. We are supporting her and the baby, since the father and his family refuse to take responsibility, even though paternity is proven. But she has been on a downward path since then.

Ms. Vicki, I love my daughter, but she has not really shown me she has matured and is ready for the Army. With her past behavior, she could end up in Fort Knox doing time because the Army is not going to have any tolerance for criminal behavior. Should I blow the whistle on the recruiter?

- I Want to Do the Right Thing

Dear Right Thing,

I totally understand your concern for your daughter. From your report, you have done a good job providing love and support for her. I know it’s difficult emotionally when children choose to go down the wrong path, especially when we have tried our very best to steer them in the right direction.

I don’t know how she can lie about her background because a thorough background check will be done. She won’t be able to hide anything. Conversely, according to news reports, the Army is giving more waivers than in recent years for people with criminal records.

I and my co-workers often see changes in people once they join the armed services. The military can instill character and discipline, which your daughter needs right now. I hope that if she joins, her behavior will change.

I also wouldn’t lie about having a child. After she joins, her child would be eligible for health care, et cetera, and if she lies, how would the child be eligible for these benefits? That would not be fair. From my experience, talking with other single service members, they had to give temporary custody of their child or children until after basic training and other initial schools. But we have many single parents serving valiantly in our armed services.

My other suggestion would be for her father to accompany her to see the recruiter. Since your husband is retired Army, he should know the ins and outs of joining the military. Maybe the recruiter would be less likely to stretch the truth to your daughter.

I know you are concerned for your daughter, and I know you love her. Please know that, in your case, you should not blame yourself for your daughter’s behavior. Keep in touch.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I just returned from Iraq to an empty bank account and massive debt. My husband won’t tell me what happened to the money. However, I was talking to his mother, and she told me he bought her a new kitchen. She has a new refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, etc. She knows this money came from me since her son wasn’t working while I was deployed. Why would she let him do this? Ms. Vicki, I am extremely angry. He has a lot of new jewelry and clothes, too.

I know I was saving more than $1,000 a month, but where is it? He knew this was for savings, not for a good time. My regular pay was going into the same account, too. Just think, while I was over there in that awful country, dodging bullets and trying to survive, his tacky [man] was spending my money frivolously.

Ms. Vicki, I want those kitchen appliances out of my mother-in-law’s house and taken back to the store. I’m also taking back all the other [things] he purchased in my name. It’s not fair for me to have to pay for the good time they had. What else has happened while I was gone? This may only be the start of uncovering what my husband did in my absence.

- Redeployed and Broke

Dear Redeployed:

I know you are angry and rightfully so. For starters, I really want to thank you for a job well done. I truly appreciate your efforts and your sacrifice serving your country; thank you so much. I’m glad you made it back healthy, even if your bank account is zero.

I want to encourage you to stay calm. You must depend on close family and friends to get you through this tough time; please solicit their help. Right now, you seem to be focused on money that was ill-spent rather than your marriage, so let me try to give you some advice on that matter.

I suggest you get some legal advice at your local base. I know they offer information regarding purchases made in your name without your permission. You should also visit your Army Community Service (ACS) office and speak to a financial counselor.

I regret what happened to your finances in your absence and without your knowledge. I must admit that I hear this story too often. For this reason I always advise the service member to have a different bank account to save extra money earned from deployments. This is wise especially if you have not been married very long and this is your first deployment. Believe me, there’s nothing wrong with making a person prove they are trustworthy and a good steward over their finances before we trust them with ours. I hope everything works out for you.

Vicki Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three, has been counseling service members and their families for 15 years. Her column, Dear Ms. Vicki, runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki@yahoo.com.

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