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Army mom: 'My children have always been first'

Simone Holcomb
Simone Holcomb

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Simone Holcomb had to choose between her children and the Army.
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(CNN) -- Simone Holcomb has put her Army career in jeopardy to provide care for her husband's children in a custody dispute. A Colorado court has ruled that either Holcomb or her husband Vaughn must remain in the United States in order for the Holcombs to retain full custody of Vaughn's two children from a previous marriage.

The Army has ordered Simone and Vaughn Holcomb to report for duty in Iraq. Spc. 4 Simone Holcomb has chosen to defy those orders to remain at home.

CNN's Soledad O'Brien discussed the choice between duty to country and duty to family with Holcomb.

O'BRIEN: You're clearly between a rock and a hard place in this. And I want to give a little more information about what's going on here. You've been married to your husband Vaughn for three years?


O'BRIEN: And he has two children previously in another marriage. His former wife is now filing for custody. Vaughn's gone off to Iraq already. What did the judge tell you?

HOLCOMB: Well, at that time when I went to court, I had let the judge know that me and my husband were both home on emergency leave to help deal with this situation. And it was decided amongst many people that it is best for those children to reside in our home for the stability. And to maintain that, one of us needed to be here, because Colorado law states that if me and my husband are both not in this country, those two children do go back with their biological mother. And that would be detrimental for them.

O'BRIEN: So you had to make a choice. And the choice you made was to stay home with the kids. Are you AWOL right now?

HOLCOMB: I am considered AWOL right now and I do have my other five children that I do care for, as well. So it's not just these two, but it's because of what my husband's ex-wife did that caused both of us to have to come back from Iraq.

O'BRIEN: Yes, the legal battle is basically focusing on the two children from your husband's previous marriage. What's the Army telling you about your options at this point?

HOLCOMB: I have one option, get on the plane. The only other thing they said is if I don't, they're going to discharge me from the military.

O'BRIEN: They have released a statement and I want to read it to you for just a moment.

"The Army always tries to do the right thing. In this situation, the appropriate chain of command needs to make a decision. The Army hopes for a solution that is amenable to all parties. Specialist Holcomb does have a commitment to her children, but she has a commitment to the Army, as well."

And that comes from Steve Stover, who is an Army spokesman.

What do you think when you hear a comment like that?

HOLCOMB: Well, I understand that they're speaking for all soldiers in the Army and generally that is the way it goes and generally the Army does maintain that.

They do allow soldiers some mobility in being able to be a parent as well as a soldier.

However, my situation within my command, I'm not getting that from my command. And it pains me.

O'BRIEN: How are you doing? How are you holding up? I mean as you mentioned, you've got seven kids that you're dealing with, which is hard in and of itself, not to mention the legal battle.

How are you doing?

HOLCOMB: It's hard. I have good days and I have bad days, just like everybody else. Staying strong for the kids is my number one priority.

My children have always been first. The other thing that's hard is the personality differences within the children have caused some problems. So we're working on it together as a family.

I haven't heard from my husband in seven days, so that adds to it, as well.

O'BRIEN: It must be hard for you. I know your kids and, as you said, you have five from a previous relationship, your husband with the two, ages 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12.

One of your sons, I believe, told his teacher, "My family is falling apart."

How are they doing, all the kids?

HOLCOMB: They're having a hard time.

They're afraid I'm going to go back to Iraq. They're afraid that their parents are going to be gone again.

Justin and Taylor, it's hard for their mom to accept, and I understand that as a mother. And I've never tried to take their mother away from them.

What is hard for them is because they don't always want to go. They don't want to live with her full-time and they don't always want to go on the weekends that she's to have with them. And it's hard for her to accept, and I know that.

But this is about my children.

O'BRIEN: Do you feel you're being treated unfairly? Are you angry?

HOLCOMB: Yes. I believe my unit has a personal problem with me. I believe it is personal within my unit.

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