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Home on leave from Iraq, Staff Sgt. Robert Foreman, 27, takes a nap Oct. 15 with then-4-month-old son Branden.
Home on leave from Iraq, Staff Sgt. Robert Foreman, 27, takes a nap Oct. 15 with then-4-month-old son Branden. (Courtesy of Kimberly Foreman)

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — When Maj. Robert Joseph Bayham met his new fraternal twins — Robert James and Jennifer Lynn — for the first time last month, it was something of a shock.

His wife, Tammy, had sent updated digital pictures each month since they were born June 4, so as he was in Iraq he was, “watching my kids grow up by e-mail. Watching their facial expressions change,” he said.

“But the first time I saw them in person, they looked so much smaller,” said Bayham of Company C, 40th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Armored Division.

It struck him that the photos made the newborns look larger than life. “Kind of like seeing Sylvester Stallone in the movies,” he said. “He looks so big in the movies, but he’s really five-six.”

It’s a uniquely military experience — soldiers coming home to make the acquaintances of children born while they were deployed. Yet, if having dad away is tough, having him home may require some adjustments, too.

When Staff Sgt. Robert Foreman of the 40th Engineers walked in one day in October on rest and recuperation leave and surprised his family, it was too much of a shock for the baby he’d never seen.

Just up from a nap, “Branden saw him and cried,” recalled Kimberly Foreman. Having not had a man around the family apartment during his first four months in the world, the deep voice and face were unfamiliar to Branden, she said.

“I held him and said, ‘Let me calm him down a bit.’ But [Robert] just knew it was going to happen,” she said.

It took the baby three days to be totally comfortable with Dad, Kimberly Foreman said. But when Robert Foreman came home a few years ago from a KFOR rotation, the reception he got from daughter Brianna, then a toddler, was totally different.

“When he came home from Kosovo — when she first saw Daddy — she was all smiles,” Kimberly said. “You just can’t predict how they’ll react.”

Though separation from families has been the norm for soldiers and officers through history, the Information Age is giving troops the tools to stay in the picture. Modern U.S. soldiers get family digital photos by e-mail, and videos in the mail. And unlike previous wars, soldiers in Iraq typically have some telephone contact, and more frequent mail and e-mail missives.

Robert Bayham found out via secure e-mail that his twins had been born.

Stephanie Espinosa had daughter Gabriela at 11:48 p.m. Sept. 13 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Hospital officials notified the Red Cross at 3 a.m., and by 8, Red Cross workers had notified her husband, Spc. Ricardo Espinosa of the 40th Engineers, in Iraq. Then Red Cross officials in Germany called Stephanie Espinosa back at noon to make sure her husband had received the message.

“I was super-impressed by that,” she said.

But soldiers also use traditional ways of keeping family connections strong. Ricardo Espinosa writes letters and uses his drawing talents to create mementos for his children. He keeps topics age-appropriate, wife Stephanie Espinosa said. “He’ll write, ‘Today I saw a big helicopter,’ and describe what he did … or draw a picture. He lets them know Daddy is in a cool, GI Joe place.”

Preparing for delivery

When Maj. Robert Bayham and his wife, Tammy, knew they were having twins while he would be deployed to Iraq, they got everything squared away quickly.

• They decided the babies’ names. They chose a German hospital in Idar-Oberstein for delivery. They replaced their Volvo sedan with a van that could carry all five children and bought new car seats. They even arranged base passes for family who were coming to Baumholder to help Tammy with the expanded family.

• As an Army officer, Robert Bayham says, smiling, he’s trained to plan and execute “whether it’s a breaching mission or a baby delivery. We didn’t fritter away time on things that really don’t matter before I left.”

• On the run-up to the Sept. 13 birth of daughter Gabriela, Stephanie Espinosa and husband Spc. Ricardo Espinosa were often limited to one-minute phone calls. “I’d pick up the phone and he’d say, ‘Do we have a baby?!’ ‘No.’ Click,” Stephanie recalls.

Those conversations often included a debate about the new baby’s name, Stephanie says.

Her husband favored “Sacha.” “But we’d go back and forth — ‘What do you think of that name?’ Another month would pass. Finally, he said, ‘Just name her what you want … and I went with Gabriela.”

— Terry Boyd

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