Stork arrives home ahead of parents and baby at Chinhae Naval Base
February 20, 2005
PYONGTAEK, South Korea — When she got home to Chinhae Naval Base in South Korea with her newborn daughter Wednesday night, Petty Officer 2nd Class Amy Broadus saw the figure of a big white stork waiting by the front steps.
Made of wood, the stork stood almost five feet tall, had yellow legs and beak and sported a red and blue conductor’s cap. Hanging from its mouth was a wooden “bundle” colored pink, with the following in blue letters:
“Welcome Gabriella Jenice Born: Feb. 13, 2005 Weighing: 7 lbs. 12 oz. Length: 19½ inches CFA Chinhae, Korea” — as in Commander, Fleet Activities Chinhae, which is headquartered at the base.
Broadus, 24, gave birth to Gabriella at 5:55 p.m. Sunday in the Army’s 121 General Hospital on Yongsan Garrison in Seoul. Bringing her daughter home, and seeing the stork, “really makes you feel like you’re part of a community,” she said.
Setting a stork out front has become a regular practice at Chinhae Naval Base.
It’s the idea of Vicky Rands, who was appointed Chinhae Navy Ombudsman this summer.
“You know,” she said, “it’s not like you have your mom and dad here and everybody who’s there to greet you when you come back from the hospital. So this is just a nice way for the whole community to get involved in welcoming you back.”
As base ombudsman, Rands is the liaison between the families and the command. It’s a voluntary position. Chinhae is the third command at which she’s held the post.
“Back in the States,” said Rands, “when new families have births, they have the option of going to a floral shop or some other place, and renting, for about $150 and up, a stork that they get to keep in their yard that announces the birth of their children.”
But Americans serving in South Korea don’t really have that option, said Rands. Besides, she said, pregnant Chinhae wives are checked in to the 121 General Hospital 30 days “prior to the due date of the baby.”
That can mean one’s on-base neighbors might not even know a baby’s been born. That’s where the stork comes in.
“I wanted to bring some of that hometown, a little bit of America,” she said, “back to the families here at Chinhae, and I thought, ‘What better way to do that than to put a welcome sign?’”
“It contributes to base morale,” said Chief Yeoman Robert Bridgewater, Chinhae’s senior enlisted adviser, for the birth family as well as for “the rest of the families here at Chinhae.”
And, Rands added, at Chinhae, base wives also volunteer to cook the birth family dinner and dessert for the first night back and provide a second meal that can be refrigerated and used the next night or later.
Waiting at the Broadus home Wednesday was roasted chicken and potatoes, and for dessert, “Sweet Marie” bars. The wives provided a frozen lasagna as a second meal. “I never have a lack of people volunteering once they see the stork’s up and they know that the family’s had the baby,” said Rands. “I never have a lack of volunteers asking if they can cook their dinner for them.”
Broadus and her husband, Petty Officer 2nd Class Casper Broadus, were the fourth Chinhae couple to have the stork since the practice began in November, Rands said.