AWOL Mom Gains Honorable Discharge

GENERIC: Female Soliders, Women, Woman Soldier, Iraq, Military
A New Hampshire National Guard member charged with desertion while trying to gain custody of her 7-year-old daughter has been honorably discharged from the Army, her lawyer said Saturday.

Spc. Lisa Hayes, 32, and her daughter Brystal are back home in Rindge, said Merrimack lawyer Linda Theroux, who has been representing Hayes in her custody battle.

Hayes got the good news Friday night. She and Brystal drove home early Saturday from Fort Dix, N.J., where Hayes had surrendered earlier in the week, Theroux said.

The discharge means Hayes will be able to attend a custody hearing Tuesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court-North, Theroux said.

"She already had Brystal call her father, and he picked her up to make up for the Wednesday visit that he missed," Theroux said.

Hayes could not be reached Saturday afternoon for comment.

Hayes was serving her second tour of duty in Iraq when she learned of possible domestic violence in her ex-husband's home. Tim Knight, of Dublin, had primary custody of Brystal at the time.

Hayes got emergency leave to come home and won temporary custody of Brystal after a court hearing in late February. The court appointed a guardian to investigate both homes and make a recommendation for permanent custody, but that has not been resolved yet.

Hayes' Army commander in Iraq extended her leave briefly three times, but it expired March 25. She tried, but failed, to get another extension, a hardship discharge, or a transfer to New Hampshire, saying she had no one with whom to leave her daughter.

She surrendered at Fort Dix on Tuesday, taking Brystal with her. Army lawyers helped her refile for a hardship discharge Friday, and it was granted hours later, Theroux said.

In the meantime, Knight went back to court Wednesday seeking Brystal's return to his care, concerned that his daughter was missing school and that Fort Dix was not an appropriate environment for her.

According to police and Hayes, Knight was a victim in one domestic violence incident, while the other involved a fight between his mother and girlfriend. The judge who awarded Hayes temporary custody said Knight's problems with alcohol and a stormy relationship with his girlfriend made his home unsuitable for Brystal.