My daughter Veronica is a happy, bouncy, joyful, and much loved child. She is not a baby anymore. She’s a little girl who looks forward to running to greet me when I get home from work, to riding with her papa on his tractor and eating her grandmother’s good cooking. She has a big sister she looks up to and adores.
I am not a perfect person. I am a just a regular guy that goes to work every day to support his family and serves in our Army. More than anything, I am like any father who will do everything to make sure my children are loved, provided for, and protected. Like any father, my children are my world. Like any father, I want what is best for my daughter.
All last year, I tried to abide by the court order we were all under to not speak publicly on this case. I understood that it was put in place to protect my daughter’s privacy. To me, she was more important that getting into a public battle, even if it meant not defending myself against all the dishonest things reported about me.
So much has been said about me and the time surrounding my daughter’s birth. I know it’s impossible to try to answer every false detail put out there, but here is the truth: My world was ripped apart when Veronica’s birth mother ended our engagement suddenly and shut me out of her life forever.
In December 2008, I got down on one knee and proposed to the love of my life. She accepted with joy. It seemed like one week we were planning a big, outside wedding and celebrating ecstatically the news of our pregnancy, and the next I was receiving a phone call from Christy saying she didn’t know how she was going to pay her bills and she was stressed. I told her I had money saved and not to worry and asked her what she needed. I remember specifically that it shocked me when she told me no, that she had “a plan.” Still, I knew that my military benefits would provide the medical and financial support she needed, so I did everything I could to push the wedding date up.
Always in the back of my mind I was concerned about going to Iraq. I knew there was a possibility that I might not come home. I pushed for marriage because I needed to know they would be okay if something happened to me. She said no. She told me to stop calling her and stop texting her.
But I called. I texted. I begged. I pleaded. I drove four hours and knocked at my ex-fiancée’s door, praying she would answer. I had offered financial support, military benefits, everything I had. When I was told no, I foolishly tried to go along with whatever she asked me to, hoping she would see how willing I was to do whatever it took.
When I did finally hear from her, she started texting me, asking me to sign my parental rights over to her. Every day for a month and a half I got a text asking me that same question. It was a horrible feeling, watching myself being shut off from the woman and daughter I loved so much. I knew I didn’t have a chance to fight her for custody because I was about to leave for Iraq for a year. So after weeks of texts, I said I would sign my rights over, thinking I was agreeing for her to have full custody and she would let me see my daughter.
I still tried to contact Christy in the hopes that she would change her mind about marrying me. After Veronica was born, I tried to contact Christy, as did my mother and father, wanting to bring gifts we had purchased for Veronica. Still, no answer, no response. My mother told me that maybe I should just give Christy some space. That maybe in time she would come back to me. So I stopped calling Christy, stopped begging her to marry me.
It was painful and confusing. That whole time I did not know why Veronica’s mother wanted me out of her life. That whole time I didn’t know about all of the conversations that had been going on with the adoption agency. I didn’t know financial arrangements were being made. I didn’t know that the couple who wanted to adopt my daughter had been told I would give up my rights, that I was a deadbeat dad, that I would not pay child support.
Here is the truth: I am not a deadbeat dad. I did not abandon my daughter. I did not wait to “step up to the plate” until Veronica was four months old. I have been at the plate since I rejoiced at the news my fiancée was pregnant. I did not change my mind about how involved I wanted to be with Veronica. I have loved her and wanted her since the moment I knew she was to be my daughter.
My life was turned upside down when I was served with the adoption papers. Stupidly, I thought they were papers doing what we had texted about, giving Christy full custody while I was gone. It was literally the moment I finished signing that the server told me, “You just gave up your baby.” I went to grab the papers from his hand and he told me if I took them I would go to jail. I hired an attorney right away and gave my father power of attorney to fight for custody of Veronica while I was off at war.
Ever since that day I have been in a legal battle for the right to raise my daughter. Ever since that day I have seen horrible things written about me. I have seen how the public has come to terrible conclusions about me. I’ve accepted that people will do and say anything to win custody of Veronica. But what I can’t accept is that the courts would allow these lies sway their decisions. Somewhere in their rush to punish me for what they mistakenly think I’ve done, they stopped talking about what is best for my daughter.
The recent decision from the South Carolina Supreme Court has shocked my family. I cannot accept a decision that refuses to even consider what is best for my child. It should never be about what adults want and need, it has to be about Veronica. The Supreme Court has ruled that Veronica’s interests don’t matter. As a father who wants to protect his daughter, I cannot accept that.
I love my daughter with every fiber of being and I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Veronica’s interests are given the highest priority as they should be. I will admit that I made mistakes, but not supporting my unborn child and her mother was never my intent. I loved them both and would have done anything for them. I will never stop fighting for my daughter, ever.
My home is simple, but along with my beautiful wife Robin, who Veronica calls “Mommy,” we have made it full of love.
My family is not rich, but we are happy. I make sure Veronica’s days begin and end the same way every day, with me telling her that her daddy loves her, has always loved her, and will never stop loving her.
Dusten Brown, Veronica’s biological father, wrote this for the Tulsa (Okla.) World.