An East Texas soldier, just home from a year in Iraq, was honored tonight. Jennifer McCurley received an honorary award from her alma mater, Chapel Hill High School. A Texas flag was also presented to her from State Representative Leo Berman. Jennifer drove fuel tankers with the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit, Iraq. That's the group that captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Jennifer said she accepted tonight's award on behalf of all the soldiers serving in Iraq.
But hidden behind that smile on her face tonight, lies another story. Jennifer and her husband have been separated for more than a year and are going through a divorce. The couple is also in battle for custody of their 18 month old son. She says it's because of her service to our country.
We first met Jennifer McCurley this past October when she was reunited with her son after serving in Iraq for six months. That reunion was bitter-sweet. She had to return to Iraq 2 weeks later. But recently, when she came home for good, she didn't have a chance to greet her son at all. Her husband, whom she had been separated from for more than a year, had taken him away.
"He told my grandma when I came home he was going to be no where to be found," she said.
Jennifer says since her return to Texas, she searched and searched for her son but couldn't find him or her husband for days.
When she did find him he told Jennifer he wanted full custody of Logan, breaking their arrangement made before she went to Iraq.
"He agreed he would never take Logan away from me, no matter what, and I don't know what came over him," she says but Jennifer soon learned why he wanted full custody. She says he disapproves of her serving our country in Iraq.
"He's trying to tell the court I volunteered to go to war, that I left my son to go to war, which is not true," she adds.
Jennifer did leave for Iraq after Logan was born, but says it was because she was ordered to. She says her time apart from Logan was very difficult.
"Over there, there were times I thought I wasn't going to make it. I would cry and cry but then I would look at these pictures of Logan and something would come over me," she explains.
As hard as it was, she never forgot why she was there, for her son, to make sure he grows up in a world full of freedom. She says it was her patriotic duty something she says her husband can't accept.
"I think he is disrespecting me. For me to go over there and fight for him and Logan and everybody else, and him not say anything to me, and then trying to take Logan, that's just not right."
But it's the next battle Jennifer must face.