CAMP MORGAN, Bosnia and Herzegovina -- Staff Sgt. Randy Woodward's pinning of his NATO Non-Article 5 Medal by Multinational Brigade (North) Commander Brig. Gen. Richard Nash on Nov. 22 here was extra special.
Nash congratulated Woodward, of Brainerd, who stood among his fellow Task Force Bearcat Company C, 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry soldiers in the medal ceremony, for becoming a father for the fourth time. His wife had delivered their son, Carter, two days earlier.
"Oh, I'm very pumped, very excited," Woodward said of his child's birth.
Woodward was allowed to go home for 12 days of leave to see his new son and family. He earned these days while on active duty deployed to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Forge as Stabilization Force 14. With Carter, Woodward has three sons and a daughter.
Unlike the Red Cross message delivered to Woodward informing him of his son's birth, he was not surprised that Nash knew of the news. In the formation, Nash and the task force commander, Lt. Col. Gary Olson, first congratulated Woodward's younger brother, Bryan, who stood in front of Randy in the formation.
"Both were popping their heads around Bryan," said Randy, who has been in the Guard for 10 years. "Colonel (Olson) was like, 'We'll get to you. We'll find you.'"
His wife's pregnancy wasn't so smooth. Two months ago, she slipped in the grocery store and hit her stomach with her elbow.
Randy said she went into premature labor but the doctors were able to stop the contractions. She delivered Carter three to four weeks early.
Randy, whose daily task as a squad leader is taking charge of seven soldiers and two Humvees, said the accident really shook him up.
"I talked to my leadership and my soldiers and they helped me get through (the situation)," he said.
Training at the much larger Eagle Base helped him get through the last week of his wife's pregnancy. He said he was able to chat and see his wife via the Web cams at the base's cyber cafe.
Randy isn't the only father with a unique story at this military outpost that's the size of a football field. Sgt. Robin Mattson's wife was induced early so he could see his child before leaving for Bosnia; and, Spc. Andrew Burton of Park Rapids saw his son for only a few days before leaving for the six-month deployment.
Mattson, of Bemidji, who has been in the Guard for two years, said their doctor recommended the induction, which was only a week before his wife's due date.
"They figured it would help in bonding and everything," he said.
Mattson, who also has a 2-year-old daughter, said seeing his newborn daughter Stephanie, if only for only a few days, was nice.
"Any time you get with your children is just awesome," he said.
Burton saw his newborn son for the first time at about the same time Mattson saw his newborn daughter. Burton was training in Fort Polk, La., when Kobe was born.
Burton met Kobe when his fiance brought Kobe along with her to Fort McCoy, Wis., to take Burton home for a few days. Burton was training at Fort McCoy before deploying to Bosnia.
He said Kobe was the youngest baby he had ever held.
"I didn't know if I was going to break him, he was so fragile and tiny."
Burton summed up the feelings of every father serving in the armed forces away from their families: "I'm excited to get back. Go home and be a father and start fathering."
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