Father meets daughter for first time after deployment

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
He was anxious; excited actually. He gazed at the crowd across the tarmac to look for someone familiar, his wife, and someone he had never met, his baby girl. He had seen the baby only through photos and webcam.

Then, he found them. He looked at his now four-month-old baby for the first time in person, and she smiled at him.

"Seeing her for the first time, I don't know how to describe it," said 1st Lt. William Whiddon, 510th Fighter Squadron intelligence officer in charge. "I've seen her on the video and pictures but it's not the same as holding her, seeing her personality and facial expressions."

Lieutenant Whiddon arrived Oct. 4 from a four and a half month deployment with the 510th. During his deployment, he missed one of the most important dates of his and his daughter's life -- the day she was born.

"I would have liked to be there, but there's no regret," the lieutenant said.

Married for three years, Lieutenant Whiddon and his wife, Sarah, were excited when they learned they were going to have a baby, though they also knew he was going to be deployed. Mrs. Whiddon knew before being married that instances like this happen to military families -- servicemembers missing some of the most important events in the family. However, she didn't realize it was going to happen to them.

"It was bittersweet," Mrs. Whiddon said. "It was exciting but at the same time, William was not going to be here for the birth of his first daughter."

Lieutenant Whiddon was with his family most of the pregnancy. When he deployed, his mother and the 510th FS wives' club the "Buzzettes" took over to help Mrs. Whiddon with the last two weeks of the pregnancy.

"As soon as my contractions started, I e-mailed him that he needs to give me a call immediately because I knew I was going to the hospital soon," Mrs. Whiddon said. "I wanted him to hear it from me before other people in the squadron."

During her 18 hours of labor at the 31st Medical Group hospital, the lieutenant regularly called to check how his family was doing.

"It was intense, but the doctors and staff were absolutely wonderful," she said. "It was a good experience. The staff was very supportive especially since my husband wasn't there."

As for the lieutenant, all he could do was wait and pray.

"I was praying for everything to be alright," he said. "I was anxious, especially once I found out they were in the end stage. I was waiting on the phone."

Within a minute the baby was born, Lieutenant Whiddon's mom called to tell him the good news.

"I could hear my baby in the background, crying. That was good to hear," he said.

After a couple of hours, he received some of the photos of his baby.

"It was special," Lieutenant Whiddon said. "It was good to see what she looked like. I would just imagine up to that point. She looked like me; she has my nose. It was neat."

During the rest of his deployment, Mrs. Whiddon would send her husband some photos of their baby. They would communicate through phone calls, and on Sunday evening, they would use webcam to see each other.

"It's a big responsibility to know that I am going to shape my daughter's life, her values, and hopefully give her direction when she gets older," Lieutenant Whiddon said. "I don't think I've fully felt it until I saw her. It also gives me an appreciation for Sarah and how she handled everything."

The Whiddons spent most of their time together the first day he got back from deployment.

"We just enjoyed being together and let the baby get acquainted with the strange man who is now in the house," Lieutenant Whiddon said.

He may have missed the birth of his child, but meeting her for the first time, he said, "It was the most memorable moment of my life."