Staff Sgt. Todd Keys vividly remembers his pair of deployments to Iraq. His calls to duty were on direct collision courses with a baby-toting stork.

During his initial tour as an infantry team leader with the 25th Infantry Division, Scholfield Barracks, Hawaii, he became a first-time father.

On his second stint in Northern Iraq, Keys learned his wife, Megan, was again pregnant.

Keys, now a father of three and a current Old Guard U.S. Army Drill Team squad leader, was on guard duty at a forward operating base [FOB] when he was informed of the birth of his daughter, Emily. He was continents and oceans away from his wife and modes of communication were at a minimum.

"The first time, we were at a small FOB [named] McHenry, and it had a couple of phones and computers," Keys recalled. "I got to talk to my wife maybe once or twice a month. It was tough staying in touch."

As the birth of Emily approached, Todd's superior made sure a line was open to Hawaii for the incoming baby patrol.

"I just got a new first sergeant before it happened, and he made it one of his priorities to help me out," Todd said. "The battalion staff had their own FMWR [Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation] phone, and they let me use it. I remember I was on gate guard, and I was with a couple of guys guarding the entrance of the FOB. The SOG [sergeant of the guard] came over and informed me my wife had just had the baby. They sent somebody up to relieve me and I got to give my wife a call."

Before and after the birth of their first-born, Megan realized Todd had a mission as a Soldier, but that life had just given him the job of being a father.

"As hard as it was, I knew he was doing something important, and I was proud," Megan said. "I was bummed he'd miss out on new things.

"He called when our daughter was four or five hours old," Megan continued. "Our first parenting moment was when he heard her cry over the phone. After that, the commander told him that he was going home, and he got two weeks of R & R. He came home when she was four days old."

Todd returned to Iraq to finish out his first deployment, and he returned once again at the end of 2008 for another year-long mission. During that time, the couple learned another baby was on the way. But this time, Todd was able to be present in Hawaii for the birth of his son, Jack.

Through the life-changing events, Todd made sure his mind and thinking process were in proper perspectives. During his time in Iraq, his quest was to stay riveted to his mission at hand in order to be there for his Family.

"It [the pregnancies] was something I had to keep in the back of my head and stay focused," Todd said.

"Once I got in the swing of things and I kept my mind focused, I realized I wanted to go back [home] and not end up in Arlington [National Cemetery]. I had to stay focused."

Page last updated Fri February 3rd, 2012 at 08:28