Soldier from LI returns home for baby

August 18, 2008 5:48:24 PM PDT
There was an emotional homecoming on Long Island Monday for a new father serving in Afghanistan.The soldier's son was born prematurely after a difficult pregnancy. And after pleas to the Army, the specialist was allowed home to meet his newborn.

In general, soldiers do not get to come home for the birth of their children. But this delivery came six weeks early. And with the arrival of a tiny baby, military officials let him come home on emergency leave.

The little boy weighs in at a tiny 4 pounds, 5 ounces, but doctors say baby Nicholas has the strength of his military father.

"You want to be there, you want to help," Army Specialist Juan Leon said. "This is my flesh and blood, my family. This is my first child."

Nicholas wasn't expected to see the light of day until September 23. But once his mom Lorraine started showing signs of labor, hospital nurses stepped in to get her newlywed husband home as fast as possible, just in case something went wrong.

"The Red Cross is a wonderful group," care manager Pat Cordes said. "They were so anxious to get this daddy home. I talked to them, she got back to me in about two hours, telling me everything was sent to Afghanistan."

Within an hour, soon-to-be-father Juan got the good news from his boss to get from Afghanistan to Long Island.

Lorraine says she made it to that point without him, but added it wasn't easy.

"Not only being pregnant, but having to deal with that was very, very hard," she said. "I'm just very happy right now."

Home now for less than a day, Juan says it's the best day of his life, though he says it's a tough balance wanting to be there for his child, but also for his country.

"I got to hold him, I got to feed him," he said. "I have something to take back with me that can serve as motivation. I have something to come home to."

Juan will return to Afghanistan in two weeks indefinitely. Meanwhile, his baby will remain in the intensive care unit until nurses feel he is ready to go home.

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STORY BY: Long Island reporter Emily Smith

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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