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November 12, 2003

That AWOL "Mom" In The News Is The STEP-Mom

Update: I have been contacted by Debbi Piland, Vaughn Holcomb's ex-wife and the mother of the two children in question here. Her side of the story is quite interesting and it hasn't been covered in the press except for one article. I wrote about her in this new post. I've received a great deal of information from her. My post includes only some of it. As I obtain more and verify the information I have been given I will post more.

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Have you read that story about the AWOL military mom who remained behind to care for her seven children, despite being ordered by the Army to return to Iraq? A judge told her that either she or her husband would lose custody of two of the kids if one of them did not remain behind. The Army told her if she doesn't return she could be imprisoned.

You know which story I'm talking about, don't you?

She was recently given a "compassionate reassignment" so that she would not lose her kids.

You recognize that story, right? It's been all over the news. Lots of sympathy has poured out for this woman torn between duty and family.

The problem is that the news has glossed over a few details. Before you shed crocodile tears for this woman and her husband, please take note of the following important facts.

Did you notice in any reports that this woman is the two children's step-mother, not their biological mother?

Did you know that these seven children are all between the ages of 4 and 12? (So what were the Holcombs doing in Iraq?)

Did you know that when Simone Holcomb met her now-husband that he did not have custody of his children? The two of them spent three years battling his children's natural mother for custody -- and they won.

During the time they battled the natural mother in court, they married. Simone and Vaughn Holcomb have been married for only three years. At least 10 months of those 36 months, they were not even living in the home with those children, let alone residing in the U. S.

Did you know that the children's biological mother had filed for sole custody and child support, and that the judge had given her and the paternal grandmother temporary joint custody?

Did you know that Vaughn Holcomb's mother had moved all the way out from Ohio to Colorado to care for all of the children while Vaughn and Simone were deployed, but their natural mother was not given her own two children?

Did you know that Simone Holcomb did not have custody of one of her own children when the paternal grandmother came out from Ohio? That child was living with bio-dad at the time.

Did you know that the children are doing poorly? You shouldn't be surprised. Two of them (three if you count Simone's child who lives with the father) have lost their mothers. They have lost their father/step-father to deployment. They have lost their mother/stepmother to deployment. They were being cared for by the paternal grandmother who in September up and left. Simone said that her mother and her mother-in-law "can’t take care of our children for any serious length of time. And you can’t just ask a day-care provider to take your children for nine months." Yet mother-in-law somehow gets joint custody with the biological mother of two of the children. Of course the children are (to use Simone's words) "acting out." One of them threw temper tantrums at school. The older son was getting poor grades in school. They wrote letters saying "Please don't die". They are having nightmares and they are wetting the bed. Did you know that the 11 year old told a teacher that "my family is falling apart?" Considering the custody battle Simone and Vaughn put his two children from the previous marriage through, I'm sure these problems started long before deployment.

At this point and in the midst of this collossal mess, the natural mother tries to get her children back. That's understandable.

Not one of the articles has given the natural mother's name, nor has she been interviewed. However, all the articles tout the "mom of seven children" who had been forced to made such a big sacrifice, and quote the dad's mother's concerns about the sacrifices her son and daughter-in-law have made to "serve their country."

Media spin like this makes me sick to my stomach.


Posted on November 12, 2003 at 12:00 AM | Permalink

Comments

Wow. Great research, Trish. This is an amazing story.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at Nov 13, 2003 2:57:43 PM

Thank you for your research. I have also been looking up this information and have been surprised to find the same thing (she's a step-mother, not the kid's mother). She does seem to have a point regarding her own children. I guess they can be taken away if she leaves; but, this should be the reason she stays - not so "she" can win a custody battle. Ever wonder why second wives tend to be the leaders of "father's rights" groups instead of the fathers, themselves? Also, this push for father custody has become much hotter since the government decided to enforce child support laws. It is wrong to tear children away from thier mothers because the fathers (and new wives) don't want to pay child support. And, yes, I do believe mothers should get primary custody in a "no-fault" divorce, or in a case where her husband is "at fault". Mothers permanently give up thier greatest assets (youth and beauty) to have children, not to mention the health risks they take. In addition, children are more valuable to mothers because there is a very real limit as to how many they can have. Men get the chance to have multiple families for many decades, with very little personal sacrifice. A man is much more likely to remarry and have more children. Give this (biological) mother her children and leave her alone, unless there is good reason to take her children away. These children aren't victims of the Army. They were victims of divorce long before that.

Posted by: Sharon at Nov 14, 2003 3:21:04 AM

What are "parents" doing signing up for the military when they have seven children
between them? These children are supposed to be their first priority, not being hereos in name. What a pity that these innocent children are being used as pawns, while the media is letting the parents deceive the public, and forgetting about the poor little children's welfare. Shame on all concerned!!

Posted by: Marian Risker at Nov 14, 2003 9:03:42 PM

The problem is, I've yet to find anywhere in various news articles that either one of these people had done what's known as a 'family care plan' that every parent in the military is supposed to do. They're suposed to plan for deployment and have arrangements made for the kids. It's not optional; it's as basic a part of military life as polishign your boots. This woman didn't do her job and she's blaming the military for expecting her to do what she in effect promised to do.

Posted by: ginmar at Nov 15, 2003 2:12:49 PM

"The problem is, I've yet to find anywhere in various news articles that either one of these people had done what's known as a 'family care plan' that every parent in the military is supposed to do. They're suposed to plan for deployment and have arrangements made for the kids. It's not optional; it's as basic a part of military life as polishign your boots. This woman didn't do her job and she's blaming the military for expecting her to do what she in effect promised to do."

Some of the articles I linked to mentioned that the military requires that parents are supposed to have a "family care plan" in place. I'm sure the Army can't check on every single service-member who has children. I don't think that making sure they had such a plan would have been entirely her responsibility. He's just as liable as she. She and her husband did not plan well for their deployment. His mother came out from Ohio -- to care for seven kids. That's a bit much. She couldn't handle it and left in September, which is one reason this whole mess blew up in the first place. Plus, the Holcombs left out one person who definitely could have taken care of two of those children -- the two children's biological mother. I'm not surprised they left her out because they put her through a three-year contested custody battle that they ultimately won. In the end, the kids suffered the most. You read how they've fared through this entire mess -- not well at all.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Nov 15, 2003 4:17:25 PM

“I’m in the National Guard, so I volunteered and left for Iraq in January. My husband has had 20 years in the military and he left for active duty in April. The Colorado judge ruled that if I get on a plane right now and return to Iraq, I will be abandoning my children and we could lose custody of Dustin and Taylor."


HELLO? She VOLUNTARILY signed up to be sent to Iraq leaving seven children behind? Now that's interesting... they've been married three years... and apparently they find excuses to leave home. I suppose if I had seven kids... I'd be looking to leave home too.. (grin) but sheez Louize.... she voluntarily signed up for two additional kids.. and apparently helped her now DH to seek their custody. Ok... what am I missing here.. LOL

Posted by: Chief at Nov 15, 2003 9:59:48 PM

Interesting how you follow media so well and havent found any info on debra holcomb
the ex wife who
abuses her kids and takes them to see faith healers. a woman who uses the state of colorado and
her two kids as a paycheck.although I find this article semi accurate the truth is this girl I have known since third grade spent 10 monthes in iraq and is willing to go back.the mother inlaw returned home because her husband is dying.
simone holcomb is the bravest person I know and her husband is a
wonderful man.any kids whose parents are in iraq now are terribly disturbed.It is unfair some of these speculations that army parents are purposely subjecting their kids to pain by divorcing and having custody battles.Please support our troops.and pass judgement only when fully informed.What would you do? its not like the holcombs didnt realize this was reality.vaughn is a sergeant of 20 years.Ironically this very family was chosen by the pentagon for a four page spread honoring them all in sept. people magazine!!! We need to respect that she can not leave these kids unattended.It should speak volumes that she was able to obtain custody of another womans kids.
Have an opinion but have a heart.t

Posted by: SIMONES FRIEND at Dec 11, 2003 5:23:30 AM

"What would you do? its not like the holcombs didnt realize this was reality.vaughn is a sergeant of 20 years.Ironically this very family was chosen by the pentagon for a four page spread honoring them all in sept. people magazine!!! We need to respect that she can not leave these kids unattended.It should speak volumes that she was able to obtain custody of another womans kids."

By her OWN words, Simone VOLUNTEERED for a tour she was NOT assigned to. Apparently, they fought long and hard to get custody of his children. If you knew Dad was going to Iraq, if you knew the Mom (Debra) is abusive and apparently lost custody as a result, why in the WORLD would you VOLUNTARILY sign up for a tour? Why fight long and hard for custody to provide the children w/ stability, nurturing and subject them to MORE "disturbance' by having BOTH parents in a war zone?

Posted by: Chief at Dec 11, 2003 10:02:43 AM

Yea, we know she "volunteered"!!When she did so her "family care plan" was intact.I would never leave my kids to fight for this country but simone and many others did.It
is quite A sacrifce and she deserves respect for
her time in iraq.Quite simply this is why you and I stay home and simone and other brave soldiers go.She is one of my best friends and I cant even understand what drives her to be a soldier.It seems your point is that since she left her kids to go to war then she should abandon them now.This is not a realistic answer to such an issue if your concern is really for the kids.Get over it.
when have you worried about family care plans bfore this families fell through.This has nothing to do with child support.A family care plan can not predict cancer.Have an opinion,Have a heart,Have some respectt

Posted by: simones friend at Dec 12, 2003 1:56:22 AM

You're right that it speaks volumes that Simone Holcomb was able to obtain custody of another woman's children, but not in the way you think. It's a myth that mothers who lose custody always lose it for good reasons, such as being unfit. I've heard of convicted sex offenders getting custody of their children from the mothers who had tried to protect them. Mothers who are viewed as "uncooperative" frequently lose custody. It's actually rather alarming that she (well, her husband, mostly) was able to do that because she could just as easily lose her own children should her ex, if he has remarried, decide to contest custody. She's not the first subsequent wife to help her noncustodial dad husband get custody of his children from a previous marriage. If the children's mother was truly unfit that judge would not have ordered the children returned to her if one of the Holcombs did not remain behind. She and her husband just happen to be in the military. The negative effect of the custody battle on the (two) children is one issue, and the effect on all of the children of their parents' deployment in Iraq is another issue. Both of these events occurring so quickly after each other cannot possibly have been good for any of those children. While I have my own opinions about the Holcombs (obviously), it's clear to me that their case is one of many being used by those who want to prevent mothers from joining the military. This case has also been pushed by fathers' rights activists who want to applaud a man who, with the help of his second wife, managed to wrest custody of his children away from their natural mother.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Dec 12, 2003 10:39:54 AM

I'm a retired Air Force master sergeant who stumbled across this site while searching for AWOL data for the troops home on leave from Iraq. I learned quite a bit about the Holcomb situation from this blog that I didn't know, such as Simone being a step-mom, not the biological mother of the two children in the custody dispute; she volunteered for duty in the Mideast; and they had only been married and caring for the children for about 2 years, not counting the overseas time.

I can tell you from my experience that Family Care Plans are often very unrealistic. Generally they're just filled out to meet a requirement. In one of my units, the commander's staff noted that one stay-at-home mom was listed numerous times! If the unit ever had to deploy, there was no possible way that all the children could be cared for. And expecting one of the Holcomb grandparents to handle that many children indefinitely is not a plan.

I respect the Holcombs' service to their nation. However, it does appear to me that, although the children are a major issue now, they didn't seem to plan all this out very well.

Finally, I thought there was a rule as recently as the First Gulf War that you couldn't have spouses or siblings in the war zone simultaneously, so as to prevent tragedies where a family lost more than one child or parent in the war. Or has the demand for manpower (or Simone's volunteering) overturned that rule?

Great research, by the way.

Posted by: Brian at Jan 11, 2004 12:52:24 AM

I too want to hear the biological mother's side of the story!

Posted by: Kerry at Feb 18, 2004 3:42:42 PM

Boy oh Boy, the lies just keep spreading. Simone volunteered to join the National Guard, she did not volunteer to go to Iraq, her unit was ordered to go! Vaughn was in the military when he married Debbie. Debbie left him and his children. She has never had physical custody of those children so he did not take them from her. She is trying to take them from the only parent that has been there for them. Vaughn is a soldier and was sent to war. How dare anyone think that soldiers should not be allowed custody of their children? He had a family care plan. His mother gave up her life to care for his children while he was in Iraq and would have continued to take care of them until he got back. Debbie kept filing things with the court and Sue was worried that he may lose custody while at war so she sent him a red cross message. This allowed him and Simone to leave Iraq temporarily to deal with the situation. While Sue's husband was ill, she did not ask to leave the children. Simone told her to go because Simone wasn't going back to Iraq. That was Simone's decision and it was Simone's decision to get the media involved. Right or wrong, it has nothing to do with Vaughn's parenting rights. The important issue here is not Simone and her children. Simone is irrelevant. The issue is Vaughn and his children. He is retiring and wants to get on with his life. Debbie has no rights here, she walked out on her rights. She is a psychotic woman. Did you know that Vaughn had to rescue her from a cult in Kansas when they were married? She is unbalanced and should only have a minimal role in those children's life.

Posted by: Tamara at Mar 31, 2004 9:48:28 PM

WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE DEBBI PILAND PROVIDE PROOF OF HER WWORDS? OR ARE YOU JUST GOING TO TAKE HER WORD FOR IT. I HAVE IN MY HAND THE TRUTH AND THE DOCUMENTATION TO BACK IT UP. I AM GLAD MANY OF YOU CAN SIT IN JUDGEMENT OF OTHERS. MY HUSBAND AND I, AS WELL AS MILLIONS OF OTHERS, HAVE HELPED PROVIDE FOR YOU. DEBBI PILAND WAS INVOLUNTARILY DISCHARGED FROM THE MILITARY FOR A PERSONALITY DISORDER. UNTIL ANY BODY IS WILLING TO FIGHT FOR THEIR COUNTRY, THEIR RIGHTS OR THEIR CHILDREN, DO NOT STAND IN JUDGEMENT OF THOSE WHO DO. I NEVER CLAIMED TO GIVE BIRTH TO ALL OF MY CHILDREN, BUT I PROMISE YOU, THEY ARE ALL MY CHILEREN. I DO HAVE JOINT CUSTODY OF ALL MY CHILDREN. MY NAME IS THERE FOR DUSTIN AND TAYLOR AS WELL. I HAVE BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BY THE STATE OF COLORADO AS THEIR PARENT. I BELIEVE IN WHAT IS BEST FOR ALL MY CHILDREN. I DO NOT CHOOSE UNJUSTLY FOR MY CHILDREN BECAUSE IT IS EASY. I DO WHAT IS RIGHT. ASK DEBBI WHY THE COURTS CONTINUED TO GIVE THE PRIMARY CUSTODY OF DUSTIN AND TAYLOR WITH ME AS WELL AS MY HUSBAND. ASK DEBBI HOW MANY TIMES SHE WROTE IN HER OWN HAND THAT SHE COULD NOT HANDLE HER OWN CHILDREN AND THEY WERE TO BE WITH ME, VAUGHN AND/OR SUE. WHEN DEBBI CAN SHOW PROOF AND CAN TELL THE TRUTH, THEN WE SHOULD HEAR HER WORD. EVEN IN DEB'S OWN PROVIDING, SHE WAS TRYING TO FIND WHERE I DEFAMED HER, NONE WERE FOUND. THE ONE ARTICLE SHE REFERS TO STATES, I WAS NOT RETURNING THEIR PHONE CALLS. HOW COULD I HAVE SAID SOMETHING AGAINST ANYONE IF I CANNOT BE QUOTED? THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF ARTICLES ON THIS STORY. READ THEM ALL. READ THE COURT FILE. SEE THAT THIS IS ABOUT SEVEN KIDS. NOT PARENTS, NOT SOME OF THE CHILDREN, BUT ALL OF THE CHILDREN. TEACHING THEM TO STAND BY WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN, TEACHING THEM THAT YOU WILL DEFEND YOURSELF AND THEM TO AN ENTIRE WORLD. TEACHING THEM THAT TAKING THE EASY WAY IS NOT ALWAYS THE RIGHT WAY. TEACHING THEM THAT YOU DON'T WALK AWAY WHEN LIFE GETS HARD. TEACHING THEM THAT THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO LOVE EVERYONE. TEACHING THEM NOT TO LIE. I HAVE NOT LIED. I STAND BY EVERY WORD I HAVE SPOKEN. I AM WILLING TO EXPLAIN ANY AND EVERYTHING ANYONE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND. PLEASE CHECK MY CRIMINAL RECORD IN ALL 5STATES. CHECK MY AND MY HUSBANDS DOMESTIC RECORD IN ALL 50 STATES. READ ALL MY WORDS. THESE ARE FACTS, NOT HEARSAY. JUST SO WE ARE ALL CLEAR. I AM THE MOTHER OF SEVEN CHILDREN. FIVE BOYS AND TWO GIRLS. I WILL THRIVE IN THIS LIFE AND ANY THAT MAY COME AFTER BECAUSE THERE ARE NO SKELETONS IN MY CLOSET.

Posted by: SIMONE HOLCOMB at Mar 31, 2004 10:07:26 PM

Simone Holcomb wrote that she "never claimed to give birth to all of my children, but I promise you, they are all my children."

See, the problem with this is that the media reported the story numerous times as if Simone was the biological mother of the two children in question - a falsehood that colored the patriotic/family duty tone of the articles. That tone permeates everything written about this case. Even the supportive comments have that same "they served their country" and "these are fine parents" tone. Yes, there are thousands of articles praising Simone and Vaughn Holcomb, and praising their patriotic duty to this country and about how they are raising all those children. I think that's the point. ;) There is at least one article that was published before the story made the big news. Most parents of my acquaintance don't seek out reporters like that.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Apr 1, 2004 10:22:18 AM

What the heck is the big deal that she is the STEPMOTHER rather than the biological mother? If anything, she should be commended for caring for another woman's children.

Get off the whole second wife issue.

Posted by: Lara at Oct 1, 2005 10:53:15 AM

That's how you win friends and influence people, Lara, great job. Thanks for alerting us who didn't see this entry before, though: guess it sorta backfired for you.

Posted by: rich at Oct 1, 2005 1:30:53 PM

"What the heck is the big deal that she is the STEPMOTHER rather than the biological mother? If anything, she should be commended for caring for another woman's children.

Get off the whole second wife issue."


It was a heck of a big deal as the mother of those children wanted them back with her...NOT being shoved from pillar to post so the father could avoid paying child support while he was deployed.

The media tried to twist the facts of that story and in doing so they lied trying to pretend that a stepperson was those kids' mother when she wasn't...

Those children should have been back with their mother as soon as their father deployed, not with a stepperson attempting to work the system...

So YOU get off it...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 1, 2005 8:59:17 PM

Hey...my husband has custody of his daughter. There used to be a provision in his decree that stated if he went tdy for longer than 90 days she would return to her mother.

We had it changed because his ex is a lousy mother and it would disrupt the children's lives too much for them to be uprooted and sent back to her. Guess what...he is tdy right now helping out w/Katrina and I'm with the kids!!!

I can guarantee you 100% that child support has nothing to do with the equation. I am more able and more qualified to take care of my step daughter than her own mother is. And, she would "want" to stay with me even if court documents stated she was to return to her biological mother.
Did you ever think that it might be BEST for those kids to stay where they are?

Posted by: Lara at Oct 2, 2005 9:17:12 PM

"It was a heck of a big deal as the mother of those children wanted them back with her...NOT being shoved from pillar to post so the father could avoid paying child support while he was deployed."

HEY WHO'S THE ONE WHO MADE A BIG DEAL OUT OF CHILD SUPPORT IN THE FIRST PLACE? the father and step mother didn't go to court and try to change the child support order, did they? I don't know... I think the kid's mother did it because she was watching Oprah and saw how much more she could get because her ex was remarried and they both had incomes from the military. it seem like every child custody case comes down to how much the mother can make the father pay in child support! But everybody except for his exwife thinks he's paying too much, he's portrayed by the media as the bad guy.

Posted by: at Oct 2, 2005 10:56:13 PM

Just because someone gave birth does not automatically make them a good mother, or even a "mother" at all.

Posted by: at Oct 2, 2005 11:04:14 PM

"Did you ever think that it might be BEST for those kids to stay where they are?"

No...

I think step persons should keep their nose out of other women's business...

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 3, 2005 9:35:36 AM

"Just because someone gave birth does not automatically make them a good mother, or even a "mother" at all."

AND just because you marry someone with children does not automatically make you a good mother, or even a "mother" at all."

AND yes giving birth automatically does make you a mother...you can be a good, bad or indifferent one but yes giving mother DOES make you a mother.

Wake up.

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 3, 2005 9:37:54 AM

God...I'm even MORE furious at this woman after going back and reading the actual articles. That Simome Holcomb was deliberating LYING to those reporters never ONCE mentioning that those children weren't hers and the ONLY ruling that Judge made was that the two children were to be returned to live with their mother. since both their father and step person were deployed.

She tried to work the system by painting herself as the aggrieved mother here.

HOW DARE SHE LIE LIKE THAT TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC...

Her five children should ALL be sent to live with their many different fathers and she should be made to go to jail for lying.

Posted by: NYMOM at Oct 3, 2005 9:45:11 AM