Though he’s only 23 years old, Army Specialist Corbin Wright has always wanted to be a father.
He never imagined he would miss the birth of his first child.
But while his fiancée was in the delivery room at a Texas Hospital this spring, Wright was thousands of miles away serving at Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan.
It was a bitter disappointment for a new father who had tracked every moment of the pregnancy and talked about nothing else for months.
“I wanted to see everything!” he says.
Wright, a logistics specialist, believed he would make it home before his daughter arrived, but fate seemed to conspire against him.
“I was trying to be financially stable for my child so I [re-enlisted] for another four years,” he says.
That decision pushed back his departure date from Afghanistan. Meantime doctors at home recommended an emergency C-section, moving up the baby’s delivery date by several weeks.
Wright volunteers at the Marmal USO, and when center director Michael Eyassu heard what was happening, he sprang into action, arranging a Skype connection in a private room to allow father, mother and baby to spend their first moments together as a new family.
The whole setup took some planning—Skype is not an everyday convenience in a combat zone.
Most troops cannot access Skype on the secure computers at their work stations. They can purchase internet service from a commercial provider but it’s unreliable and expensive—upwards of $100 per month. Even if you pay for a connection, soldiers at Marmal live in group tents and have nowhere to go for a private conversation.
The USO offers free phone and internet to troops, but Eyassu says “Skype is blocked [at the Marmal center] because we don’t have enough bandwidth to support it. So when we have special events, we have to contact our internet service provider to unblock it.”
That extra effort was a priceless gift for Wright. Just after his baby arrived by C-section on April 23rd, he watched as the doctor placed little Korlea Santrice in his fiancée’s arms.
“Whew! That’s my baby!” he thought.
“Skyping meant everything to me, because it felt like I was in the room right there with her.”
Korlea weighed just over five pounds and everyone thinks she looks just like her daddy.
Wright is grateful for those precious moments—watching his newborn take her first breaths, hearing her first cries and seeing for himself that she was safe and healthy. But he longs for so much more.
“To give her a big kiss, hold her. I want to feed her,” he says. “She loves when she’s getting fed, and I could talk to her while I’m feeding her. And she could recognize me, hopefully recognize my voice and my touch and my smell.”
One bright spot for Wright is that he’s scheduled to be home in time to celebrate Father’s Day with his baby girl. Many other deployed fathers have to wait months before they can see and hold their babies.
“There’s a lot of people like that in my unit, that weren’t able to get home for the birth of their child,” says Wright, “Because they’re out here serving our country.” – Malini Wilkes, USO Director of Story Development
The USO arranges Skype connections at bases around the world to bring deployed fathers into the delivery room. This Father’s Day, give the gift of a Skype connection to a military dad, or choose another gift for your own father from the USO Father’s Day Wishbook.