JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The American Red Cross station here has a "Legacy Room" that is used for private viewing of special events in service members' family-lives, and it was reserved June 17 for one special occasion: an Airman deployed here witnessing the birth of his daughter.
Tech. Sgt. Nathanael Farrington, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, said he called the ARC station here to inquire if they had a private area with webcam communication for the purpose of viewing the special event. The Red Cross informed the sergeant of the Legacy Room, which was made for such events, and that requests like his were top priority -- something Farrington was very happy to hear.
"The fact that I was able to experience Madison's arrival from half a world away puts me at a loss for words," Farrington said. "It turns what could be a stressful situation, filled with the suspense of not knowing what's going on, into a profound, life-changing event that I can experience with my wife."
Not surprisingly, it was very hard for Farrington when he found out he would be deployed here on his wife's due date.
"My wife [Kristen] and I had mixed feelings," he said. "Obviously, I wanted to be with her during this momentous event. I knew...that this pregnancy would be easier with two parents at home to take care of our two boys, and help Kristen around the house."
"As difficult as it is, knowing what she's going through at home, we both see this separation as a special and somewhat unique chapter in our family story," added the Scottsdale, Ariz., native deployed here from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
Overall, Farrington said even though he couldn't be there to hold his wife's hand or give her ice chips, he could still support her with words of encouragement and an expectant smile.
"We have an extremely vibrant emotional bond; I can't wait to laugh and cry with her when we see our baby girl," he said.
The Legacy Room was constructed approximately one year ago and is dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. The room has photos of the courageous men of the 332nd Fighter Group on its walls.
"The need exists to help service members feel connected with their families at home," said Mary Messina, JBB ARC team leader and senior station manager. "We help service members 'be there' for the birth of their children. They have coached their wives through as long as 22 hours of labor."
"When no special event is scheduled, we reserve the room on an hourly basis for folks just visiting back home," added the Saint Robert, Mo., native deployed here from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. "We are open 24/7, so the time difference is workable. However, patrons must understand that births are extra-special and since they can happen at any time, they [expectant fathers] have priority in use of the room."
After Kristen was induced, Farrington entered the Legacy Room to view Madison's birth via webcam. Impressed with the treatment he received, he said the whole experience was "perfect," and is extremely grateful for the AMR's support.
"Because of the privacy and comforts provided in the Legacy Room, and because of the care of Red Cross personnel, I was able to stay connected with Kristen continuously over the 10-hour labor," the sergeant said. "They even delivered me dinner and breakfast meals so I wouldn't have to miss any potentially crucial parts of the event!
"After Madison was born and measured, my demeanor blossomed into grateful pride," Farrington added. "I was able to use the DSN phone in the Legacy Room to make some phone calls to excited grandparents and great-grandparents in Arizona. That was exceptional!"
Messina said the Red Cross station here is the only one in-theater that offers this special service; she hopes the ARC will have the capability available elsewhere in the future.
"This service is available to all military and Department of Defense civilians here," she said. "We have even had some service members come from outlying forward operating bases to view special events like graduations, birthday parties, anniversaries, even sitting around the table at Thanksgiving on one occasion."
"The way the staff embraced my family and I during this time made me feel not like I was in a concrete building in a war zone thousands of miles from my wife and daughter, but like I was at my grandparents' house and as involved as I possibly could be in my daughter's arrival," Farrington concluded.