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Military and Motherhood Incompatible, Soldier Says

March 17, 1989

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ A soldier who wants a discharge so she can care for her infant daughter said Thursday she has no hard feelings against the Army but has found that military service and motherhood don’t mix.

″I like the Army. I have nothing bad to say about it. I just don’t feel it’s right for me,″ Spec. 4 Cheryl Beekman said in an interview from her office at Fort Eustis in Newport News.

Ms. Beekman, 21, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court after she received orders to leave for South Korea without her 6-month-old daughter, Lauren, and the Army denied her request for a discharge.

The Army agreed Wednesday to postpone her transfer while the court case is pending, but Ms. Beekman said she is still anxious to leave the service before her four-year hitch ends next year.

″I want out. It has nothing to do with going to South Korea, really,″ she said. ″I have a hard time being in the military with a child. That’s what it comes down to. There’s long hours, overnight guard duties, just everything, 24-hour duties.″

Ms. Beekman said she would consider staying in the Army only if she were based near Tacoma, Wash., where her husband moved in October to take a job.

″I’ve been a single parent since the first of October,″ she said. ″I just had a hard time with it.″

Ms. Beekman said other women at the base have been discharged because they had babies, but she doesn’t feel she has been singled out. She said the Army has a shortage overseas in her specialty of graphics illustration.

The Army and other services offer pregnant women in uniform the option of leaving the military before the baby is born. Otherwise, they must apply for a hardship discharge, which can be granted in case of a death in the family, a need to support family members, and a variety of emergencies.

Of the 250,000 women on active duty in all four branches last year, 4,815 left the service because of pregnancy and 855 got hardship discharges, said Maj. David Super, a Defense Department spokesman.

Ms. Beekman’s lawyer, Kenneth E. Labowitz, said his client would have to leave her baby with her husband or mother if she is sent to South Korea.

″I’ve been a good soldier. I’ve never been in trouble,″ Ms. Beekman said. ″I don’t think my child should be punished for a mistake I made.″

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