By Army Spc Leo Church. September 1, 2009

For over eight months I waited in Ft. Hood, Texas for my lawyers to barter for my freedom and the prosecutors to decide what they found to be fair for my case. My problems started not long after I finished Basic and A.I.T. when I received a call from Angie, the mother of my children, Alyssa and Kaitlynn, saying that the three were homeless and living in a van in Arlington, Texas.

I asked my company for permission to leave to get them and was blatantly denied. Seeing that I had no other choice I left to pick up my children and then immediately returned to Ft. Hood, back to my company. When I returned I was charged for leaving without permission and given an Article 15, and my pay was cut in half.

Things only got worse from there. I had no one to watch my children. Even though I was not allowed to have my daughters living with me in my barracks room, when I asked for help from my captain I was told to just have them live with me and come to work with me. Unfortunately, the wait for BAH at the time was 6 months. Knowing that I was not allowed to have them in my room over night and it being inappropriate to take them to my company to work, I left to take my children to Amarillo, Texas so I could find them a safe place to live.

Having only my mother to turn to, but knowing that she could not keep them 24 hours a day for me to be able to return to Ft. Hood, I stayed and found myself a civilian job. I knew my obligation was to the Army and my company, but my children were my obligation long before I ever considered enlisting and they needed their father.

I was doing the best that I could for my daughters and when I was picked up for being A.W.O.L. in 2007, Angie came and picked up Alyssa and Kaitlynn, and informed me that I would not see them again, at least not until I was done with the Army. Flown back down to Ft. Hood and once more at my company, I was threatened with 15 to 20 years in prison for leaving my company, regardless if it was for my children or not. So, again I found myself leaving, this time not for my children, but for me.

I was scared and alone, and had no one to help me as it had been since the first day I arrived at Ft. Hood. Over the last year, away from the Army, I had finally started to build the foundation for my life. A beautiful home, an excellent job, a wonderful wife, Amanda, and my only son on the way, I could not have been happier. But, my desertion charge had been discovered and I was once more picked up and returned to Ft. Hood.

With everything that was going on, from me leaving, even though it was to care for my family, because I could find no support from the Army, Amanda and I had to place our son, Austin in a loving home thru adoption. We did not want him enduring the strife that we had endured and for him to end up being fatherless, because I would be living in prison. I have never known my father, never had the warm experience with my father like going out to throw a football, or go camping, or enjoy the guidance I needed to receive in my life. He just wasn’t there.

I stood before the judge at Ft. Hood in a General Court-Martial and pleaded my case, that had I received the help I needed I would have been able to stay at my company and serve by my fellow soldiers, but I found no mercy. The judge convicted and sentenced me to 15 months in prison with a Bad Conduct Discharge. The prosecutors had only asked for 14 months with no fines and no BCD. Thankfully my previous lawyers had arranged for me to have a pre-trial agreement that capped possible jail time at 8 months.

Still, 8 months is too much. I have lost so much because of the Army; I don’t have custody of my daughters and I had to give up my son for adoption, all because of the Army. My wife is struggling to make ends meet now without me.

And I am stuck in this jail.

It is because of everything that has happened to me that I’ve decided to speak out.