By Maj. Craig HeathscottJune 16, 2008
VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq (Army News Service, June 16, 2008) -- Members of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Arkansas Army National Guard celebrated Father's Day here by reminiscing about the births of their children.
The Soldiers spent their Father's Day in Baghdad as they are currently traveling back to duty. Some will had to work to recall their first Father's Day, while others had very fresh memories.
First Time Dads
For Sgt. 1st Class John Reed, this will be his first Father's Day. His induction into fatherhood is less than one month old, yet it is a memory forever branded in his mind for two reasons.
"One of the most memorable moments of my life," said Reed, referring to the recent birth of his daughter that he was fortunate enough to see in person. "The birth was even more special since it happened on my dad's birthday, May 20. Having a child is something I've waited a long time for and planned for, but I wish it didn't happen while I was deployed. I'd love to be home with my wife and daughter."
Almost six months into the federal mobilization, Reed was allowed to take leave and return home for two weeks in order to be with his wife Rebecca for the birth. But little eight pound, three ounce Ryleigh Alexis wanted to keep her dad around as long as she could, so she wasn't in any hurry to be introduced to the outside world.
Originally scheduled to return to Iraq on May 20, Reed's plane was scheduled to leave at 12:20 p.m.; however, he was able to get a three-day extension. Ryleigh Alexis was born at White County Medical Center in Searcy, Ark., at 2:15 p.m.
After three days experiencing the wonders of fatherhood, Reed was back on a plane to finish his second tour in Iraq with the 39th IBCT. His daughter will be seven months old before he gets to hold her again, but he will watch her grow via web-cam until that time.
As Reed was returning as an 'Army Dad,' two of his fellow Soldiers from the Headquarters Company, 39th IBCT were in route to experience births of their own.
Sgt. 1st Class Tim Anderson boasts a healthy seven pound, 10 ounce baby boy--Ethan Matthew--and Sgt. 1st Class Jon Jeu's wife gave birth to baby Abigail.
Like Reed, both Soldiers will spend their Father's Day in Baghdad as they are currently traveling back to duty.
Capt. Gardner Andreas can vividly recall hearingthe cries of his newborn daughter for the first time on February 20 at Willow Creek Hospital in Johnson, Ark. And just four days later, along with his body armor, military gear and clothing, he would pack those memories into his duffle bags, kiss his wife Leah goodbye and head back to Mississippi for training at Camp Shelby.
Included in those memories was the fact that his new-born daughter, Embrey Madeline, weighed eight pounds, 13 ounces and looked a lot like his eldest daughter Addison Marie, who is three-years-old. Andreas has been able to watch the growth of both of his daughters through internet web-cams as well.
"Addison asks me a lot, 'Daddy, when are you coming home''" said Andreas. "I talked to her one time after some storms in Arkansas had destroyed her swing set, and she asked me to come home and fix it for her, so I'm missing her a lot. She just started gymnastics, so she wants me there for that too. And then you have Embrey, she just rolled over by herself for the first time, so I've missed that.
"Nonetheless, as a father you want to be there for those moments, and at that same time, as a Soldier--an American--you want to be there for your country," he said.
And while he'll be in Iraq for Father's Day, both of his daughters will have a 'stand-in' during his absence on this special day: grandpa.
"They are going to my wife's father's for Father's Day," he said. "They've got a barbeque and a fishing trip planned, so grandpa will be my stand in this time."
Andreas won't have to spend his Father's Day alone as his roommate definitely understands the significance of this special day. The two have a lot in common.
Instead of nervously pacing a hospital waiting room, Capt. David Grant is doing his pacing with combat boots in the desert sands of the Middle East. His wife, 2nd Lt. Michelle Grant, was originally scheduled to deliver their first child on July 2nd; however, the doctor is warned her that she'll never make it that long. 2nd Lt. Grant is also a member of the 39th IBCT and is employed full-time at the Professional Education Center at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock.
The sand gets a little deeper for Grant as he continues to pace. Yet, he's prepared to gamble on when the baby will be born.
"There's a good chance I'll miss it, but I've just had to ask myself, do I want to go home early and then she not deliver until the original date and not get to spend the time with her and the baby' I don't want to jump the gun," said Grant. "We decided that we'd rather gamble on missing the birth and actually be there to help her adjust afterwards. If she goes into labor right now, I can take emergency leave and be on a plane in 48 hours, so we're gambling."
Regardless of when his wife delivers, Grant laughs that, "I'll be there." Once his laughter subsides he tells the story of how he's been there for all the baby showers and birthing classes.
His presence was made available by Flatdaddy.com, a company that makes life-sized cardboard cutouts from photographs.
"Hey, I'm a good husband. I've been with her the whole time," he says with a smile. "She sent me pictures of her baby shower, and there I was sitting in the chair beside her, of course, my head is a little oversized, but I was there."
The couple decided to insert the bit of humor into their life for the sake of their four children. Each have two from previous marriages, ranging in ages from five to 15. They found out about this pregnancy the same month--October--that the brigade came on state active-duty orders to begin training for the federal mobilization that would occur on January 1, 2008.
"The hardest part has been leaving her to go through the pregnancy without me being there. I've only seen her for four days since January, but we communicate through web-cams and instant messaging," he said. "Bottom line, she's had a healthy pregnancy and that's all that matters. We're just hoping for a healthy baby and gambling that I'll be there for the birth."
After the birth of his daughter Raleigh Elise, 2nd Lt. Lang Doster was proud he was able to witness the miracle of birth for the second time. But this time was drastically different than the first because he witnessed the miracle through a web cam.
Some 7,000 miles away at 4:14 p.m. in Tallil, Iraq, Doster watched his wife Marianne give birth to their second child at Magnolia Hospital in Magnolia, Ark. She weighed in at a whopping nine pounds, 12 ounces. And while she was not able to see her husband, Marianne was able to type her husband messages.
The web-cam birthing experience was a first for both of the Doster's and the hospital.
"As leaders, it's important to take every opportunity to praise Soldiers when they do a great job serving their country. And, as leaders, it's equally important to take time to recognize their sacrifices to their families, truly recognize their sacrifices and this definitely qualifies," said Col. Kendall Penn, commander of the 39th IBCT.
"Let me be the first to say Happy Father's Day to our most recent, as well as soon to be, fathers: Spcs. John Owen, Tristian Mosley, Adam Cates, Eric Cook, Joshua Cook and David Calhoun; Sgts. Jermell Heath, Johnathan Butler, Benjamin Sliger and Joshua Loar; Staff Sgt. Antonio Soto; Sgts. 1st Class Jon Jeu and John Reed; 2nd Lt. Lang Doster; Capt. Andreas and last but not least, the gambler, Capt. Grant," Penn said with a smile.
(Maj. Craig Heathscott serves with the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)