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Face of Defense: Marine Links Up Via Satellite to Witness Childbirth

By Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray
Special to American Forces Press Service

RAWAH, Iraq, Sept. 24, 2008 – Like most soon-to-be first-time fathers, Marine Lance Cpl. Jovan Rodriguez anxiously awaited the birth of his child and looked forward to being by his wife’s bedside.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Lance Cpl. Jovan Rodriguez, deployed to Iraq, smiles for the camera shortly after witnessing the birth of his daughter, Liliana, via satellite to New Jersey. He is a warehouse clerk assigned to Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5. Rodriguez joined his wife through teleconference at Al Asad Air Base for the birth of their first child, Sept. 10, 2008. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

But Rodriguez, 20, is deployed here as a warehouse clerk with Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5. As often happens to deployed servicemembers, operational commitments made it impossible for him to return to New Jersey for the birth.

As Rodriguez found, numerous options, such as Internet service and phones, are available to Marines to ensure they have the opportunity to keep in touch regularly with their families. However, personally experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event alongside their loved ones is not a frequent occurrence.

Undeterred, Rodriguez sought – and found -- an alternative solution.

“When we found out I couldn’t go home, we did some research and found out we could do it by Web cam,” Rodriguez said. He and his wife explained their situation and worked out the details with the hospital staff at Underwood Memorial Hospital, Franklinville, N.J. The staff agreed to allow a video teleconference for them during the birth of their baby girl.

Rodriguez flew from Camp Al Qa’im to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, to be with his wife for the birth, and spent several days and nights waiting for the baby to arrive.

When the day finally came, Rodriguez spent hours at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center at Al Asad, joining his wife through a two-way audio and video connection.

“If something went wrong, they would have cut off the video and I would have been scared because it’s my first time,” said Rodriguez. As it turned out, the birth of Liliana Rodriguez went smoothly.

“I could see my wife and listen to her the whole time, and the labor went very smoothly,” he said. “I consider myself one of the luckiest men in the world. I know a lot of (servicemembers) don’t get to see the birth of their child, and I was blessed to be able to.”

The Rodriguez’s experience has given hope that more servicemembers will be able to witness major life events with their loved ones. Other Marines with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, say they want to make the trip to Al Asad for the births of their children. Working with hospitals and the MWR centers, Marines may be able to interact with their loved ones during significant events like childbirth through a simple Internet connection.

(Lance Cpl. Joshua Murray is a public affairs officer with Regimental Combat Team 5.)

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