Skype, USO Help Bring Deployed Marine Closer to Wife for Baby Birth
Friday, July 15, 2011
By Tom Sileo
Cpl. David Leland is deployed to one of the most dangerous areas of the world: Afghanistan’s Helmand province. As the Marine went about his day on July 6, huge news reached the war zone from Webberville, Mich. His wife, Heather, was in labor with the couple’s second son.
“We had a lot of planning and e-mail messaging going on for the whole week,” Cpl. Leland told the USO in an e-mail. “As soon as I would get any kind of update from my wife, I would communicate it to my Staff Sergeant and the USO, so we had it set up beforehand.”
When Leland, 26, rushed into USO Camp Leatherneck with a pounding heart and a racing mind, the staff and volunteers of USO Camp Leatherneck, who have helped several Marines witness their babies born via Skype this summer, were ready.
“Everyone at the USO was very helpful and courteous by providing me with a room and privacy,” Leland said. “The Marines who bent over backwards and made it possible for me to arrange the Skype session I am forever indebted to.”
With a computer screen linking a volatile hotspot to a small farm town outside Lansing, Leland saw his 25-year-old wife in pain and surrounded by doctors, without being able to hold her hand.
“A million possible ‘what if’s’ were running through my mind,” Leland said. “I couldn’t sleep for two weeks before he was born.”
The Marine knows how fortunate he was to have a computer and internet connection ready for this special moment. Many deployed troops, especially on remote forward operating bases in Afghanistan, don’t get the chance to witness their children being born. Still, even through his gratitude, Leland admitted to some frustration.
“Watching the birth through a computer screen was probably the most difficult part,” he explained. “Just seeing him and wanting to hold him and be there in person was like my heart being ripped out of my chest.”
But after Wyatt James Leland was born on July 6 at 6:40 a.m. EDT, weighing in at an even six lbs., the proud father felt like just for a moment, he was right there by his wife’s bedside.
“Hearing him cry, then seeing him there and knowing that he was healthy was a great relief off my shoulders,” the Marine said.
One week after the emotional experience, Wyatt’s proud father reflected on a series of moments he will never forget.
“This was one of the most important days of my life,” Leland wrote. “Though I could not physically be there, everyone made sure that I was there to watch as my son was born.”
At USO Camp Leatherneck and five more USO centers in Afghanistan, where the summer fighting season is heating up, USO employees and volunteers work tirelessly to put smiles on the faces of warriors like Leland. Facing danger and brutal weather conditions, all while being apart from their loved ones back home, deployed service members go through a wide range of emotions on a daily basis.
“It has been an overall growing experience,” Leland said. “Despite the unbearable climate and harsh terrain, one comes to fully understand the relationships and the bonds that tie us together as a unit.”
What the USO and United States Marine Corps did for Cpl. David Leland, two days after our nation celebrated its independence, ties us all together as Americans. For a few, tender moments, the violence of war stopped for this Marine as his baby was born free.
“Even though I was half a world away, I was right there,” Leland plans to tell Wyatt about the day he was born. “The Marines within my command and the USO made sure it was possible for me to see it.”
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