Camp Lejeune, N.C. — “Push, baby. Push. You are doing great, sweetie. You’re almost done. Push. Push – just a couple more. You are doing great, Jana, almost there. There you go. Good job, baby. You did great … Yeah, she does have a good set of lungs.”
Hands shaking and clutching a phone, Lance Cpl. Brandon Walker welcomed his daughter Shylee from halfway around the world in the Arabian Sea at 3:42 p.m. Thursday.
“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, based at Camp Lejeune, missed the birth of his child. Walker became a first-time father while serving in Afghanistan on 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,” where communication was restricted for safety and security reasons," he said.
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 thankful he could 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. “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 explained that his wife comes from a long line of tough individuals.
“I lucked out,” said Walker, who is serving with Combat Cargo aboard USS Kearsarge. “I married a Navy SEAL’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, because I haven’t been the easiest person to deal with.”
Myers explained 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 (I) 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 was 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, Walker 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 waiting for Walker to return home.
(Story courtesy of Staff Sgt. Danielle M. Bacon, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit)