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SPC Justin James on Skype to witness the birth of his baby
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The Kandahar Kid: Skype Connects Soldier, Wife for Delivery of Child

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SPC Justin James knew he'd be apart from his wife Kimberlee when she was scheduled to deliver their first child. The birth was to be around Nov. 19 and he was only a few weeks into his second deployment in Kandahar, Afghanistan. But he had an idea: the USO in Kandahar facilitated video chats so maybe they could do a video chat for the birth?

SPC James took this idea to USO Kandahar programs coordinator Sarah Kemp and from there, it became a team effort to make it a reality. Sarah said that SPC James's request was a first for USO Kandahar, but another birth had been visually connected at Camp Buehring in Kuwait.

So Sarah worked with USO director of information technology Valerie Donegan in Arlington, Va., and its network provider, Segovia, to open enough bandwidth to Skype the event and to troubleshoot any technical issues. With the logistics in place, the waiting game began.

As the Nov. 19 due date approached and passed, the USO staff was on high alert for their expecting soldier. Then the call came in on Nov. 21 to Sarah while she was at dinner. SPC James said Kimberlee was heading to the hospital and that he'd be coming to the center.

"I got extremely excited," Sarah wrote in an email from Kandahar. "Then he didn't show until about 10 p.m. Those hours of waiting to see if he would come in or if something had gone wrong were excruciating.SPC James does not have a cell phone, so I could not contact him. (He had borrowed a friend's to make the initial call.) Finally, when he walked in, he was a nervous wreck."

Sarah and her coworker Cindy Glenn placed him in an office for privacy. Time ticked along and soon it was 1 a.m. The center closed down for the night leaving just the three of them. Cindy ran out for gyros to keep the three-person crew fueled and they waited. But not calmly.

From there, Sarah describes what happened:

"I wanted to give SPC James his privacy, but I was in the office next door on pins and needles. I intended to do work, but couldn't because I was so excited! It ended up his wife had to have an emergency C-section. When I heard the baby cries in the office next door I cheered! Then Cindy and I waited until SPC James came into the office and said, 'Do you guys want to see her?' I responded with a resounding, YES!!!! We got to see the brand new baby and mother. I gave SPC James a pair of baby socks. He then stayed on for a little while longer to make sure his wife was okay after the surgery. He was so extremely thankful and so were his wife and her mother."

SPC James will get to meet Rylee Deann James in person when he heads back to Fort Worth, Texas, in February.

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