SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Marine Gunnery Sgt. Randall Nace, flight deck combat cargo officer attached to the USS Essex, knew his wife would give birth soon after he received deployment orders eight months ago with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group.
After he was deployed a little more than two months, his wife Jennifer delivered the couple’s first child, son Robert Joseph Nace, who goes by R.J.
Nace recalls that he would like to have been involved, or at least in the general vicinity. As a Marine, however, orders are orders.
“When I stepped off the ship Wednesday and I saw them both on the pier, I went straight to them, and I grabbed them both and hugged them,” Nace said of the greeting.
“Then holding, and actually seeing my son face-to-face for the first time … that was just a emotional experience. I’m really having trouble trying to think how to put that into words,” he added Friday.
Nace had only seen e-mail photos before the ARG returned. “So, I knew he looked like me.”
The real meeting, nevertheless, remained an overwhelming occasion, and a couple of days later, father and son have been hanging out and getting acquainted at their Hario Housing Village home. “Hey, we’re getting along great,” Nace quipped.
“I actually haven’t done any diaper changing yet, but I have been feeding him though and putting him down for naps and things like that,” he said. “I went to sleep with him yesterday for a nap, which was really kind of nice.”
Parents meeting infants for the first time, or even reuniting with toddlers after a long deployment, are predominantly feeling good. Even so, a couple of factors should be kept in mind, said an official with Sasebo’s Fleet and Family Support Center.
“The hardest part is just sort of not knowing what to do with them,” said FFSC’s New Parent Support Nurse Ladonna Kolman. “Even older, but still-small children make tremendous amounts of progress in eight months.
“Dads and moms deployed for long periods need to be aware that they might not be immediately attuned to their child’s level of development,” Kolman added Friday.
Evelyn Raymond, daughter Alexiss and approximately 2-month-old Ashley waited anxiously Wednesday for Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald Raymond, a machinist’s mate, to disembarked the Essex. Once on the pier, Raymond made a beeline toward the three.
Ashley was born while the Essex was still in the North Persian Gulf, before it diverted to assist the victims of tsunamis in Indonesia.
So, before Wednesday, Raymond said, “Nope, I’d never seen her before. When I first learned she was born (via e-mail) I was happy, of course, but I was also a little disappointed because I couldn’t be there; I was mostly happy.”
The proud petty officer, had he been in Sasebo, would’ve been totally involved in the pregnancy and made sure he was there during Ashley’s birth, he said.
“Holding her Wednesday, I was just overwhelmed … a lot. I was also very happy to be back in Sasebo with my family. But holding her like that, it does choke you up sort of,” Raymond said.
“We had to leave the pier area fairly soon, but she also made me feel very proud,” he added. “I felt like I wanted to show her off a lot.”