[Vision2020] Soldier Called Back to Iraq as Infant Struggles for Life

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Wed Dec 26 10:23:03 PST 2007

>From the December 24, 2007 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at



'AWOL' over sick baby
Soldier called back to Iraq as infant struggles for life
By Mike Barber

An inspiring quote in a key Army manual for commanders of rear detachments
says soldiers have "two supreme loyalties," to country and family.

But "even the bonds of patriotism, discipline and comradeship are loosened
when the family itself is threatened."

Sgt. Chris Williams, 24, a Fort Lewis 4th Stryker Brigade soldier home from
his second deployment to Iraq, never wanted to test the idea's validity when
he came home to Indiana on leave for the birth of his first-born in early

As he spends Christmas with his newborn son, who is battling for his life in
critical care while his wife remains stressed out from a difficult delivery,
the battle-tested soldier has been told his extended leave is canceled and
to hurry back to Iraq or be declared AWOL, the soldier's family said Monday.

"My kid and his wife don't need this right now," the soldier's father, Doug
Williams, said.

If ever there was a hardship, this is one, he said.

"This is a career soldier -- or was -- who has been hit with IEDs and been
there for the Army. Before all this, he could have come home from Iraq for
knee surgery but didn't feel right leaving Iraq and all the guys there. And
now with his son in critical care, this is the response he gets from the
military?" Williams said.

Chris Williams serves with the 4,000-member 4th Stryker Brigade, which left
Fort Lewis in April for a 15-month tour of duty. He returned home for his
15-day leave on Dec. 4 but requested an extension when his son's condition
suddenly worsened hours after the baby's difficult birth Dec. 18.

Catherine Caruso, a Fort Lewis spokeswoman, said Williams appealed for
emergency leave through the American Red Cross to the 4th Stryker Brigade's
rear detachment. The rear detachment allowed Williams' leave to be extended
after he was unable to get a response from Williams' chain of command in
Iraq, she confirmed.

The rear detachment commander, however, is not in Williams' chain of
command, which is in Iraq, she noted. The rear detachment commander at Fort
Lewis "has no authority to grant leave but is in a position of some trust
and took it upon himself to say (Williams) needed to stay home," Caruso

The decision was based upon information from the American Red Cross, which
handles military requests for emergency leave, she said. 

Chris Williams was at Munster Community Hospital in Indiana Monday and could
not be reached for comment. 

His family says he followed orders to return and booked the first flight he
could find, slated to leave Friday. 

But they and he can't understand the sudden reversal that has added so much
distress to their lives. 

On Sunday, Williams' son's condition was downgraded to critical at almost
the same time Williams received the message to return to Iraq, the soldier's
father said.

"The baby's condition worsened 12 hours after he was born," Doug Williams
said. "Sunday morning he stopped breathing twice and had to be resuscitated.
He was sent back to neonatal intensive care, and has undergone spinal taps."

Williams' family, which includes numerous military retirees "disgusted" by
the turn of events, are outraged, Doug Williams said, while Illinois public
officials are demanding answers from the Army on their behalf.

Over the weekend, Doug Williams said, an adjutant general said flatly that
Sgt. Williams' extended leave had never been granted. 

Yet, he notes, "I have copies of voice mails from a sergeant and captain at
Fort Lewis rear detachment who told him that because we were running out of
time and they had not heard from (commanders in) Iraq, they were extending
his leave to Jan. 3." 

There's also the voice mail from his son's commander in Iraq, a captain,
that Williams has retained.

"He told Chris to ignore the previous messages from the rear detachment and
the extension was revoked, that it was not deemed of any immediate emergency
and that he had to be on the first plane back to Iraq or he would be AWOL,"
Doug Williams said.

On Monday, Williams said he learned from an Army officer that an executive
officer in Iraq had made the initial decision to rescind leave. 

"He didn't ask for the Red Cross to check, like he should have. He called
the hospital from Iraq, asked for the nursery and was told the baby was
discharged from the nursery. Of course he was discharged from the nursery.
He was sent to neonatal intensive care," Williams' father said, fuming.

Williams said the Army should put more faith in his son's integrity.

"I'll tell you the kind of man Chris is. He joined the Army for six years
instead of the usual four after 9/11," Doug Williams said. 

When his son returned to Iraq with Fort Lewis' 4th Stryker Brigade last
spring, Williams said, he had scheduled other soldiers to take their leaves
around Christmastime instead of him. When Chris Williams learned his wife
was pregnant, however, his commanders suggested he take leave for the
December delivery instead.

Williams said his son has been in two Stryker vehicles damaged by improvised
roadway bombs.

He suffered a severe concussion in the first explosion but was back on
patrol two days later when the second hit. 

"I was never in the military," the soldier's father said, "but in my
opinion, these are the types of men and women the military wants to keep,
not to chase off."


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil
and steady dedication of a lifetime." 

--Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.

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