USS KEARSARGE at sea --
By Staff Sgt. Danielle M. Bacon
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
USS KEARSARGE at sea (Jan. 21, 2011) -- "Push baby. Push. You are doing great sweetie. You're almost done. Push. Push - just a couple more. You are doing great, Jana, alsmost there. There you go. Good job baby. You did great ... yeah; she does have a good set of lungs."
Hands shaking and clutched to a phone, Lance Cpl. Brandon Walker welcomed his daughter Shylee into the world from halfway around it in the Arabian Sea at 3:42 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Jan. 20.
“Compared to what it used to be like with letters, Marines didn’t find out that they were parents for weeks,” said Jana Walker, the day after, in a phone interview. “I think it was really awesome that he was at least allowed to be there over the phone.”
This is not the first time the mortarman with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, missed the birth of a child. Walker became a first-time father while serving in Afghanistan, April 9, 2009.
“One of my buddies came up and told me the first sergeant was looking for me. I was like, ‘oh what did I do,’” said Walker, a Lawrenceville, Ga. native. “He had gotten word from the family readiness officer that my wife was in labor and I was allowed to use the satellite phone to call her.
“I was talking to her when they decided to give her an epidural, so I told her I would call back in 30 minutes. Unfortunately 20 minutes later we were in River City,” he added. River City is a state in which communication is restricted for safety and security reasons.
Walker was able to use the phone five hours later to learn that he had a son, Bradly.
Bradly was three months old when Walker returned from deployment.
This time, it took a few calls, but eventually Walker timed it just right.
The first time he called nothing was happening. The second time Jana’s mom, Kalan Myers, answered the phone. Jana was sleeping. He called back two hours later, just in time to catch Jana getting an epidural. He called 30 minutes later but she was out of it, so he said he would call back in half an hour.
“I called back 30 minutes later and she was in the middle of pushing,” said Walker who was just thankful he was able to use the phone so much.
Myers put the phone on speaker for her daughter.
“I think I was able to distract her a little bit,” said Walker, who calmly coached his wife through the last five minutes of 13 hours of labor.
His wife didn’t exactly agree.
“No, not really,” said Jana about her husband’s voice being a distraction with a chuckle. “I was in a lot of pain and focused and just really ready to get it done.
“I am really glad he got to experience something though. Something is better than nothing and I am just happy he could hear his daughter being born.”
Walker explains that his wife comes from a long line of tough individuals.
“I lucked out,” said Walker, who is currently serving with Combat Cargo aboard USS Kearsarge. “I married a Navy SEALS’s daughter. She has a lot of strong will behind her.”
Iron will isn’t the only thing behind Jana. A strong mother is there too.
Struggling with her own battle against cancer, Myers has taken care of her pregnant daughter and grandson since Walker’s deployment began in August.
“I got it from her,” said Jana, also from Lawrenceville, about her mother’s tenacity. “She pretty much raised three daughters on her own.”
She explained, “She has been a huge help. I thank her so much, ‘cause I haven’t been the easiest person to deal with.”
Myers explains that she was just glad she could be there for her daughter.
“It was an exciting, bonding experience,” said Myers, who was Jana’s support through both births. “It was sad because we wanted Brandon there, but loved being there for her.
“At least he got to hear her cry for the first time. Some sailors and military men don’t get to hear that.”
Myers explained that the hospital staff also thought it special, as they walked in to hear Walker talking to his wife.
“It was perfect,” Myers said. “You couldn’t get any better, besides him being here.
“My daughter is very strong and I couldn’t ask for a better man for her. He is her world and she is his. He is a great husband and father.”
Walker and Jana have done a lot to keep him involved as much as possible. When registering for baby items, Jana e-mailed Walker so that he could agree or disagree with the picks.
“I would call her as often as possible too. Especially after doctor visits to see how they went,” he said.
Walker also explained that prior to deployment he was able to meet the delivery doctor, which also helped ease some of the stress.
“(The doctor) actually asked me if he could do an episiotomy,” he said. “It was just awesome that I could talk to her before, during and afterward. I could tell her how proud I am of her and that she did a good job.”
Jana explained how she feels about being a Marine wife.
“You kinda sign up for this when you get married or are even dating a military person,” she said. “But for someone you love, you take what you can get and eventually they will come home and you can start your lives over again.
“You don’t choose who you fall in love with, it just happens.”
When asked if he will be deployed for the next birth, he said with a smile, “Maybe. Really I would like to be there for the whole thing next time. Although I am not sure I would know what to do.”
Mother and baby are doing well and just waiting for Walker to return home.