Garden City Soldier, Serving Out Of Liberal, Denied Leave For Son’s Funeral

KSCB News - April 13, 2011 8:35 am

A Kansas soldier currently serving overseas wants to come home to attend the funeral of the child he considers his son, but the Army says no.

One-year-old Kaylien Gonzales suddenly fell ill Sunday. He stopped breathing and on his way to a Wichita hospital, his heart stopped beating. Kaylien didn’t make it.

“I was not there when he was gasping for his last breath and I should have been,” Spec. Nick Owen told KSN Southwest Kansas bureau chief, Kirsten Rossotti over the phone.

Owen is devastated he can’t be in Garden City to say goodbye. He’s a specialist in the Army, currently serving in Kuwait. While he is engaged to Kaylien’s mother, Owen isn’t the boy’s biological father nor has he officially adopted the child, so the Army says he isn’t allowed to come home.

“I just think that it’s ridiculous that they won’t let him come cause he’s not DNA,” said Megan Gonzales, the boy’s mother.

“A father is one who’s raised a child and been in his life from day one and that is me,” said Owen.

In its 136-page policy on leaves, the Army says soldiers are allowed emergency leave for the death of an immediate family member to include parents, spouse, children, sisters, brothers, only living blood relative and a person in loco parentis, essentially a legal guardian.

The Army says it considers each leave request on a case by case basis with the mission at hand being the most significant factor in determining whether the soldier is granted his request.

But that’s not good enough for Owen who wants to be there in person to see his "son" one last time.

“I need to be there to say my goodbyes as a father and that is all I’m asking,” he said.

KSN contacted Senators Pat Roberts’ and Jerry Moran’s offices for their position on this matter. Both say they’re looking into the situation.

So far, funeral services for the child have not yet been set.


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