Rebecca Edmonds, the daughter of a Navy captain, proudly followed in her father’s footsteps when she joined the armed forces. But her dream came to an abrupt halt when the Air Force found out that she was about to start a family of her own.
Edmonds, a graduate of Marquette University with a full scholarship from the Air Force, became pregnant 13 weeks before she was going to be commissioned as an officer, CNN reported. Six months into her pregnancy, she shared her news with the Air Force. In response, they revoked her $92,000 scholarship and ejected her from the ranks.
The Air Force strictly forbids single parents from enlisting -- a policy Edmonds alleges that she was unaware of when she found out she was pregnant. The Air Force put the single parent policy in place due to the difficult strains deployment puts on the children of single parents, according to CNN.
The U.S. military is committed to ensuring that enlisted members take care of family obligations, such as child care, before deploying for service. According to the 2012 research paper published by Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, a single parent must submit in writing that an individual not enlisted in the military will take responsibility over the child and individuals who do not comply could be immediately terminated from service.
The Air Force contends that if Edmonds was honest about her pregnancy from the beginning, she would not have been discharged so abruptly, according to CNN. In a letter written to Edmonds’ attorney about the case, an Air Force official wrote, "If Ms. Edmonds had reported her pregnancy she would have been placed on medical recheck status until she gave birth.” The letter goes on to explain that Edmonds would only be able to be deployed “if she were not a single parent, for example, if she were married, or had given the child up for adoption."
A policy that strictly forbids individuals from giving up custody of their child for the purpose of joining the ranks is outlined on the Air Force’s website. If a single parent attempting to join the Air Force indicates that their child is in the custody of someone else, they are required to acknowledge that “his/her intent at the time of enlist was not to enter the Air Force with the express intention of regaining custody after enlistment.”
Edmonds isn’t the only single parent with dreams of joining the armed forces. In 2009, it was estimated that more than 30,000 single mothers had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Researchers like Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Blanchard, the director of behavior medicine at Nellis Family Medicine Residency in Nevada, have have highlighted the need for more services for single parents in the military.
Although mothers serving their country face a unique set of battles when it comes to balancing their job and their family, many women in other professions have also alleged they were unjustly fired due to pregnancy. Jamera Lee Massop of Jamaica, N.Y. contends that she was abruptly fired from her job as an administrative assistant when she was six months pregnant. Jarretta Hamilton, previously a fourth-grade teacher in the Atlanta area, filed a lawsuit against her school district for being fired after telling her principal she was pregnant.
Edmonds case is currently under review. She told CNN that she hopes that her case will make the military reconsider its current policy on single parents enlisting for service.