Dishonorable Soldiers



Soldier Jeanie Ditty and her boyfriend.

Most often I am compelled to write about the ways in which we need to honor our veterans and military families. This compulsion is the result of growing up a Gold Star daughter during the height of the Vietnam War. I wrote After the Flag has been Folded (William Morrow) for the very purpose of setting the record straight about those who served, and how they and their families were mistreated as a result of simply doing what their country required of them. I knew my father to be a more honorable man than the crazed soldiers depicted in all those Vietnam war flicks that Hollywood was cranking out. Most soldiers I’ve come into contact with over the years have been honorable people. They don’t seek the limelight. They don’t consider themselves heroes. They go out of their way to serve others. And most importantly, they are there for each other.

Wearing a uniform, especially in today’s society, may earn a person more respect than they deserve. This is exactly why candidates running for office sometimes lie about having served in the military. It’s why some men will don a uniform that is not their’s and head to the Mall or out-to-dinner, expecting others to give them discounts and free meals, as a thank you for the duty they never fulfilled.

The term used for such behavior – the one who lies about his or her military service – is Stolen Valor. The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was designed specifically to hold accountable the people who falsely misrepresent their military service, or lack thereof.

But what about the active duty soldiers or retired soldiers who behave in abhorrent manners? What term should we ascribe to them?


In the past 48 hours, I have learned of two situations whereby a female soldier – one active duty and one retired – has beaten a child.

The first case I heard about involved a former National Guard soldier who served in Afghanistan. The girl grew up a stone’s throw from here. She did her tours without any problem that I am aware of, but her personal life has been nothing but one bad decision after another. She made poor choices before she joined the military and she’s made even poorer choices since she left the military.

She was recently arrested for beating a 5-year-old boy – her live-in’s child – reportedly for wetting himself. Neither she nor the child’s father reported the abuse. It was reported to authorities by a teacher. A mandatory reporter.

This veteran is looking at a prison sentence of up to five years.

Then there’s the case of Macy, a two-year old from Spring Hill, N.C. who died from injuries reportedly inflicted upon her by her 23-year old mother, an active-duty soldier at Fort Bragg.

Some of you may recall that I worked as an oped writer for the Fayetteville Observer, which serves the Fort Bragg community.

Macy died in December but her mother reportedly remained on active duty  with the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade (irony of ironies) while an investigation was conducted. On March 23, the medical examiner ruled Macy’s death a homicide.  Fayetteville police charged Ditty and her boyfriend with first-degree murder and child negligence inflicting serious bodily harm. Macy was reported to have bruises all over her body.

“It’s a tough case, you know this child did not die of natural causes, ” said District Attorney Billy West. “And it’s heart-wrenching to think that this could happen to a young child this way and we are going to do everything we can to see that justice is done in this case.”

What, pray tell, does justice look like when a two-year old has been abused to death?

We knew when I was at the Fayetteville Observer that child abuse among military families was alarmingly high.

Child abuse and neglect (not sure why neglect gets its own category since neglect is the leading form of abuse) increased by 10 percent in ONE year among military families according to a report in the Washington Post. 

In fiscal year 2014, officials tracking family violence within the military confirmed 7,676 cases of child abuse or neglect, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year, according to annual statistics on child abuse and domestic violence. Confirmed cases of neglect – which excludes physical and sexual abuse – rose by 14 percent, military officials said. (Washington Post, Sept. 2, 2015).


The issue of child abuse among our military families has been of concern to Pentagon and Department of Defense folks for some time. Numerous studies and reports have confirmed what military mucky-muckies have feared – that children are more likely to be abused during those first six months after a soldier returns home from deployment, and the more a soldier is deployed, the more likely it is that such abuse will occur.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. I don’t want you to just stew about these women, but I do want you to get involved.

Inform yourself.

Mothers commit more child abuse then men.

Child abuse death is on the rise.

Neglect is the primary form of child abuse and can lead to death.

You don’t have to have proof to make a report of child abuse.

It is the job of the investigators to discover whether child abuse is occurring.

Every adult should be considered a mandatory reporter.

You should not stop with one phone call to Human Services.

You should call your local Childrens Advocacy Center and report any suspected abuse and/or neglect.

To find your local Childrens Advocacy Center go to this link:

You can become a Court Appointed Advocate on behalf of children. Check it out:

If a child tells you they are being abused, believe them. Help them.

Most children will never tell an adult.

Most abusers pick on children ages 4 and under simply because they aren’t capable of reporting abuse. Or because they are too scared to tell.

Most child abuse deaths occur in children ages 4 and under.

On average, five children a day die in the US as a result of child abuse.

Those who survive rarely talk about it.

Your best friend may be a child abuse survivor.

That soldier that you thanked yesterday for her service?

She went home and beat her child to death last night.


Karen Spears Zacharias is the author of Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Story behind Karly’s Law.


Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.



about 6 years ago

Making the adjustment between military and civilian/family life can be a very tall order. All combat preparation training prepares the soldier to accomplish the mission, to not back down. I don't think taking a deep breath, counting to 10, and de-escalation/Crisis Prevention Intervention figure very strongly into that preparation. We all know that young children with the best of dispositions can become tired and cranky, sometimes very willful. They need patience, love, rest and the modeling of self-regulation over years of life to learn to manage their own emotions. When the young parent who has been conditioned to "accomplish the mission"--if that means proceeding with their own plans or having a good time right now--encounters a child who is cranky or non-compliant or simply in the way of those plans, the default response of the adult can be the military one: use more force until the opponent is neutralized. It can get really awkward when one of the "adults" in the picture has no blood ties to the child but is having sex with the adult who does... Unfortunately, there may be more than military conditioning at work. How were conflicts resolved in the homes and households in the 2+ decades of the young soldier's upbringing? It takes hard work to live differently from our training, be it domestic or military. It takes a watchful family support structure, too.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 6 years ago

Well, it seems that Ms. Ditty's issues had little to do with her time in the service and more to do with her own upbringing. Like Karly's mother, Sarah Brill, it seems Ms. Ditty had a long history of partying and abusing her daughter. The child's liver was ruptured at time of death. Bruises were not uncommon. When friends inquired, she always had some excuse for how those bruises occurred. And I've read on some post that Macy was developmentally delayed - problems speaking. Any wonder, given the nature of the abuse she suffered. After her death, her mother commissioned a photographer to place Macy beside her in photos, to appear like an angel. She lied to the photographer about the nature of her daughter's death, reports say. Moreover, she and her boyfriend set up a GO Fund Me account, raising as much as $6,000 for funeral expenses, all the while Macy's funeral expenses were covered by the military insurance, up to $10,000 some suggest. So it would seem that child abuse in Ditty's case is a matter of lack of character and not military influence. Ditty used the military, as do too many, to turn her troubled life around. It apparently didn't work. But all that said, we cannot keep ignoring the fact that among the deployed, child abuse rates are alarmingly high and need to be addressed. We can't keep teaching young people how to kill then be surprised when they follow suit.


Willam Lee

about 4 years ago

Dear Karen, I was searching the internet and came across this article you wrote aboutJeanie Ditty some time ago. It is truly tragic what has happened to this little girl. But I believe it is also worth mentioning how we in a freedom loving American society can quickly label an individual guilty just by mere accusation or arrest. No one is allowed innocence until being proven guilty anymore. If one is accused, especially if it is a sensational or abhorrent crime, that person is declared guilty by the American public. So many soldiers have fought and died to preserve our way of life.


Leave a Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that.
Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.