People First
With the help of his drill sergeants and battle buddies, Pvt. Tyrell Hicks, a Soldier assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, was able to return home to Baltimore, Md., just in time to witness the birth of his son, Kannon. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Pvt. Tyrell Hicks, a Soldier assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, had just completed Basic Combat Training when he got the call that his wife, Alanna Carr, was going into labor with their first biological child.

“It was breaking her down that I wasn’t there,” he said. “I thought, ‘I would never miss this for the world.’”

Hicks, whose family lives in Baltimore, Md., said he knew he had to find a way — and the Army helped to make that happen.

Capt. Ryan Bair, Hicks’ company commander, granted him the emergency leave necessary to travel across the country.

“It was a blessing,” Hicks said. “He didn’t have to do that for me.”

But time off wasn’t the only obstacle. Hicks said when he saw the price of the round-trip rise several hundred dollars in a matter of hours, he almost threw in the towel.

“I had just enough to cover one flight,” he said. “I was getting emotional. I said, ‘Man, I can’t get this flight. I don’t have the money.’ I was thinking everything negative.”

The hurdles in getting there brought back visceral memories, Hicks said. He and Carr had previously lost a child during the seventh month of that pregnancy. The toll weighed hard on the couple and added to the gravity of his being there the second time around.

Noticing the low morale, his drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Christopher Reyes, took him aside and gave him a pep talk. Hicks said Reyes helped put the situation in perspective for him.

“My whole thought process was just taking care of Soldiers,” Reyes said.

Hicks bought the flight, emptying his account. That’s when his battle buddies stepped in.

“As I was preparing for my flight, I get a (payment) of $100 from one of my buddies,” he said. “It says, ‘This is for you and your son. Don’t worry about nothing.’ I go to text him, and next thing you know, I get another.”

“This one’s for $250,” he added. “And it says, ‘This is to cover you for coming home.’”

Hicks tried to give the money back, but his brothers in arms refused — and they sent more.

“I got a message — another $100 comes through,” he said.

Spc. John Russell and Pvt. Christian Rivera met Hicks during BCT and have known him for less than half a year. Nevertheless, they extended a helping hand.

“You learn from example,” Rivera said, crediting Delta Company’s leadership. “It’s the least I can do for Hicks. Because when I was going through things … he took me aside, he took about an hour and a half and we just talked about what my situation was and what I could do.”

A race against the clock

On the morning of the day his son would be born, Hicks was still in Missouri. While the money from fellow Soldiers helped him buy a ticket, his wife’s doctors previously indicated she would give birth that day, he said.

“My mind was racing, thinking, ‘I hope I can get there,’” he said, recalling his thoughts as he boarded the first plane.

The pilot of his flight to Baltimore landed the aircraft early to help the Soldier see his son, Hicks said.

“He did me one of the biggest favors I’ve ever had in my life,” he said, admitting the scene’s movie-like quality. “He announced it on the intercom.”

And after one anxious half-hour car ride from the airport, he arrived at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center to a hero’s welcome. Labor and delivery floor staff lined the halls with signs and applauded Hicks as he walked to the room where his wife was about to deliver their son.

Just 10 minutes later, Kannon was born.

“‘How did you get here?’” Carr recalled thinking. “When he did walk through the door, it was like a burden that was lifted. I was happy that he actually did make it and not only for me but for his son.”

Hicks said he had kept the trip, which wasn’t confirmed until the day of, a surprise from his wife.

“She didn’t know I was coming,” Hicks said. “She said, ‘You got me good.’”

A dream five years in the making

Before joining the Army, Hicks was homeless, crashing at friends’ houses when he needed a place to sleep. Around the same time, he lost a close friend unexpectedly.

He said it took him five years to check all the boxes to enlist — receiving waivers, battling depression, improving his fitness and losing weight — but he persisted.

“I knew it would change me,” Hicks said. “I honestly believed in the Army so much. It was an obsession with me — I got obsessed with the fact that I want to become a better man.”

And Carr supported him along the way.

“It was a mission he was trying to complete,” she said. “It wasn’t something that he was willing to give up on … He kept trying and trying and trying until it actually did happen.”

Comparing his past to the present, he said his second family in the Army may not understand the impact of all they’ve done for him.

“I’m used to doing things on my own,” Hicks said. “This whole time, (I thought) ‘I’m coming to the Army to be a Soldier, but I found a brotherhood.’”

Hicks recognized all the moving parts that came together so he could witness his son’s birth, and he said he wants to pay it forward.

“If any Soldiers ever need to talk to someone to get through something, I’m all ears,” he said.

Hicks, a patriot launching station enhanced operator, has returned to Fort Leonard Wood and currently awaits being sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Advanced Individual Training.