By Chuck RobertsSeptember 17, 2007
LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany - Isabella can't even talk yet, but the 2-day-old infant will have an interesting story to tell one day about how she came to be born at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Her dad, Army Staff Sgt. Leonard Day, was deployed to Afghanistan where he was fortunate to escape death Aug. 8 when his Humvee was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.
Her mom Angelina, who was 35 weeks pregnant at the time, was at their home in Vicenza, Italy, when she received the phone call letting her know Leonard was injured, but would be OK.
The situation was made better when the family reunited five days later in Germany where Angelina arrived by bus with her 3-year-old daughter Esperanza, 18-month-old son Alejandro, and her twin sister, Celina, who had traveled to Italy to help assist during the pregnancy. A few days later they were joined by Leonard's parents, Leonard Sr. and Antionette from Gallup, N.M. The entire support network was allowed to set up temporary residence in the nearby Fisher House. LRMC contains two of 38 such homes designed to assist military families in times of crisis.
Angelina thought they would remain in Germany for about a week. But when it became apparent that the birth of their child would most likely precede the conclusion of Sergeant Day's therapy for his wounded arm, an Army support network successfully arranged to keep the family intact and ensure they would be together for the big event.
That day must have seemed far away to Sergeant Day during the evening of Aug. 8 while on a convoy patrol. The 27-year-old weapons squad leader's vehicle was maneuvering out of a ditch when it struck an IED.
The right front of the vehicle disintegrated, and Sergeant Day said it was only because they were traveling at such a slow speed that the explosion didn't occur under his passenger seat.
Instead, he was injured when a door handle tore through his arm and hand, taking away tissue and breaking bones that have since been treated with screws and a metal plate.
"I can't get over how much worse it could have been," said Angelina after once again seeing the photo of mangled vehicle.
Sergeant Day experienced similar thoughts at the scene of the explosion. After a quick blood clot treatment was applied to his right arm, his platoon sergeant shined a light on the Humvee for Sergeant Day to observe.
"I was amazed at what the explosion had done," he said from his hospital bed
His journey for medical aid included ground transportation back to base, a quick medical evacuation flight to a forward medical treatment facility, a flight to Bagram Air Base the next day, and a C-17 flight to Germany the next day.
During the journey, he said his thoughts were on his Soldiers and things he might have done to prevent the incident. He said fellow Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment are like family to him, and he feels like a big brother to them.
"I'd rather it be me that got hit than them," he said. No others were injured in the blast.
Soon he accepted what happened, focusing on his family and on family member who hadn't quite arrived yet. From the battlefield he quickly made sure that someone called his wife to make sure she knew his injuries weren't life threatening.
It was about 10 p.m. when Angelina received a call that the children happily thought was a call from their dad. It took only an instant for her to realize something was wrong.
"I already knew where the call was going," Angelina said.
She understood and believed Leonard was OK, but it became more of a reality about 4 a.m. the next morning.
"I was shaken, but not completely content until I heard his voice," she said.
Beginning with their arrival at LRMC, Angelina said they have been overwhelmed by a support network ranging from generals to enlisted liaison officers who have bent over backward to assist in areas such as travel and finance.
"It's been such a great thing that they were able to do that," Angelina said of the arrangement that prevented the need to return to Italy for the birth of her child.
"It shows that the Army cares about family and keeping them strong and united," said Sergeant Day.
For Isabella this is just a lot of talk right now that makes no sense. But it's a story she'll probably hear numerous times throughout the years, finally becoming her on.
(Chuck Roberts is assigned to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs)