AT SEA -- At some point in their Marine Corps career, every Marine will experience at least one significant life event. For many Marines, simply earning their Eagle, Globe and Anchor and the title of Marine, is it. However, for a number of Marines and Sailors currently deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, they are experiencing a different kind of significant life event.
Upon returning home from their deployment aboard the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), these Marines will meet their newborn babies for the very first time.
“I found out my wife was pregnant while I was in Puerto Rico helping with the Hurricane Irma humanitarian efforts prior to deployment,” said Lance Cpl. Steven Moulton, a Motor Vehicle Operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 2/6, 26th MEU. “I felt an overwhelming excitement and also nervousness at the same time and couldn’t help but share with everyone else who was around me.”
Being deployed thousands of miles away and having limited communication has been tough for the Marines, as well as their family members back home.
“It’s been hard being away because I have missed all the appointments and being able to support her through this whole process,” said Sgt. David Simmons, a supply clerk with the 26th MEU Command Element. “She has sent me as many pictures and videos as possible to make it feel like I am not missing out.”
Despite the challenges, having a solid foundation back home has been the key to success for these Marines, even with it being the first child for Simmons and Moulton.
“My wife has handled all of this like a rock star,” Moulton said. “We’ve had the occasional rough spot when things have been stressful or when communication has been limited, but she has been excelling at taking care of everything back home including our son.”
While making the best out of the situation, it has still been difficult at times to maintain the family-work balance.
“It's hard sometimes to concentrate on work when I am constantly worrying if she and the baby are okay,” Simmons said. “We talk as often as possible before I have to go back to work and I’m hoping that she will be able to contact me when she goes into labor.”
For Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Holtz, whose wife is also a Marine and gave birth to a baby boy while Holtz has been deployed with the MEU, having experience with raising children while in the Marine Corps has made the whole process a little easier.
“Both of us being active duty puts us in a unique position of trying to balance our family, kids, and the Marine Corps,” Holtz said. “She has been in the Marine Corps for 17 years and pretty much knows the routine and what to expect while I am away. She is a very structured and organized person and is handling the situation very well.”
As they count down to the end of deployment, the Marines are becoming increasingly excited as they get closer to meeting their children for the first time.
“When I get back I will get to meet my daughter for the first time and I cannot wait to hold her,” Simmons said. “I don't know if it has fully hit me yet that I am going to be a dad but when I see her it will definitely feel real.”
While it has been tough at times, the excitement for arriving home is building for the Marines with the MEU.
“The hardest part has been being away for the birth of Alexander,” Holtz said. “It's a huge moment in life and something that can never be replaced. When I get home I’m looking forward to spending time with my wife and kids.”
While deployed, service members have to be able to balance a healthy work and personal life. Known as members of the world’s finest fighting force, these Marines now have another team that they love and support: a family.