MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
A young Combat Center couple, separated by deployment, received a welcomed gift April 23 at the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital one day after the birth of their second child.
Sgt. John Henry, a squad leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and his wife Kimberly were reunited through a teleconference provided by the Freedom Calls Foundation, a non-profit organization that connects deployed service members to their loved ones back home.
“I was really surprised because I’ve never heard of this program before,” Kimberly said. “When I found out he organized this, I got really emotional because I knew he was thinking about the baby.”
Henry, who is currently deployed to Camp Baharia, Iraq, was excited to have an opportunity to see his newborn daughter Kelsi.
“It’s pretty awesome for me to get to see my daughter and my wife,” he said. “I was surprised about this at first. I guess I’m the first one in my battalion to do this.
“I just wish I could be there right now,” Henry said. “I want to be there more than anything in the world.”
This has been the second teleconference hosted at the Combat Center by the Freedom Calls Foundation, which has been operating for approximately five years.
The first conference occurred April 1 at the Naval Hospital, when Lance Cpl. Francisco Vazquez, a scout with Company D, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and his wife Giselle were connected after the birth of their daughter Angelina.
In addition to offering video teleconferencing for family events, Freedom Calls also provides 1.5 million telephone minutes per month on their satellite network to military families. All services come at no cost to the service members or their loved ones, according to an April 21 press release from the Naval Hospital.
“The birth of a child is a special occasion and we don’t want [service members] to miss the whole event,” said Navy Capt. Denise Johnson, the Naval Hospital director of nursing. “For nearly 50 percent of the births here, the support partner is away on deployment, so it’s nice to be able to give them the opportunity to see their children when they’re away.
“To be fighting for our country and still be able to share in this experience is just amazing,” she said.
Kelsi is the couple’s second child. They are also the proud parents of 2-year-old Keira.
Henry and the rest of his battalion are currently halfway through their deployment in Iraq. They are expected to return to the Combat Center this fall.