Bonding from afar

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Some people believe it's important for dads to start bonding with their child as early as prior to the baby being born. The mother carries the child for the duration of the pregnancy and has the opportunity to have a closer, more intimate relationship whereas the father may have to get creative. For a number of military fathers thinking of creative ways to bond becomes even more important, as military dads find themselves deployed during the birth of their child or soon thereafter. 

Staff Sgt. Ryan Veith, a 354th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog Handler, is one of the many military dads who have found themselves in that situation. He was deployed from September 2007 to February 2008 and his son R.J. was born Dec. 19, 2007. Talking to his baby while in the womb, even though he was in Baghdad, Iraq, was one of the ways he tried to bond. 

"While I was deployed my wife would turn the phone all the way up and hold the phone to her tummy so I could talk to my baby," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Veith. "I spoke to him in utero a lot." 

Sergeant Veith has been deployed eight times in his 14 and-a-half year long military career. He is leaving for his 9th deployment in a few days, less than five months after his last return. 

Dad to four children, R.J. was the first birth Sergeant Veith missed. Not being able to hold his son at that crucial, awe-inspiring moment was described by this Minnesota native, as heart wrenching, but necessary. 

"Service is a sacrifice," he said. "There are moments that you'll never get back, but deploying is something you do as a military member." 

Reflecting back to the day his only son was born, Sergeant Veith said he was notified by e-mail. 

"When I realized my son had finally been born, I cried," he said. "There was excitement and there was relief in knowing that mommy and baby were well." 

Attached to the e-mail were pictures of his newborn and despite complaints from others about printer ink he printed pictures of his new baby boy and placed four of them on the wall of his shared MWD section office. 

"Everyone [who came into that office] had to see my son, but I needed them there--it helped me through my deployment," said Sergeant Veith. 

The time finally came for Sergeant Veith to see his son in person for the first time. When he first saw his family at the airport, he hugged his three girls, but then only looked and smiled at his son. He said he didn't pick him up because he knew once he did he knew he wouldn't want to let go, and he still had to get his luggage and take the car ride home. 

Anella, Sergeant Veith's wife, said that it was amazing watching the two of them when they got home and Sergeant Veith held his son for the first time. 

"It was so sweet," she said. "Ryan was exhausted and R.J. was tired so at first they slept together for a few minutes." 

She said they stared at each other for quite awhile and then about a week later R.J. smiled at his daddy for the first time. 

For Staff Sgt. Kevin Carter, the 354thOperation Support Squadron targets NCO in charge, his experience was a bit different. The bonding he missed was the time frame between his little girl being one-month-old to an entire year later. 

Originally Sergeant Carter's one year tour in Korea was scheduled to start prior to the birth of his second child Jessica, but due to complications with the pregnancy he eventually got approved to delay his deployment by a month. 

"I missed her first words, her first steps, and more," said Sergeant Carter. "But the important thing for me was to keep busy and stay occupied during my time away."
Looking on the positive side, Sergeant Carter said it could have been worse. He was able to see his children on a Webcam, could send pictures on e-mail, and could talk more on the phone than servicemembers in the past were allowed. He said that his first supervisor, who had deployed prior to the availability of those resources, had a son who kept telling everyone his daddy was dead. "Back then they had mainly letters and for a young child that's just a piece of paper." 

Sergeants Veith and Carter are not alone as other military dads find themselves in the same situation. 

"During my deployment to Kirkuk, there were seven guys I knew there who had wives who were pregnant. Five of them missed the birth of their child," said Sergeant Veith.
Bonding may not always happen at the ideal times for military fathers who find themselves in similar situations, but being creative, communicating and making the most of the time they do have with their children is a must that both these dads agree is vital. 

Sometimes it takes a phone to a belly or seeing a face on a Webcam to start the boding process, but those things can make all the difference when you can't hold your baby in your arms.