Soldier races home from Afghanistan for baby's birth - and makes it with just 30 minutes to spare

This story originally appeared on Babble and is reprinted with permission.

Bella Baby Photography via Babble

This summer, Army Sergeant Zach Shryock and his wife Brittany found out they were pregnant with their first child. A short time later, Zach received deployment orders to Afghanistan. He would not return to Atlanta, GA until a month after Brittany's due date.

But, then news came that Zach would be one of the few soldiers to come home early - near Valentine's Day, no less. He was over the moon about being there for the birth and having time to prep for the baby.

Upon reuniting with his wife, Zach was looking forward to so many things they could do together. He would kiss her pregnant belly for the first time. He would finally get the chance to attend one of her ultrasound appointments. They would go to "baby boot camp" class together, and open all the cute gifts from the baby shower as they got Baby's room ready. Their little girl wasn't due for another five weeks, so they still had plenty of time to fit it all in.

But sweet baby Myra had plans of her own. She just couldn't wait to meet her daddy.

Bella Baby Photography via Babble

Zach started his long journey home from Afghanistan, making stops in Kuwait, Turkey, and Germany. Then it was on to Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, and Kansas. But, little did they know - there would be another big change of plans.

The morning Zach reached Charlotte, NC, Brittany's water broke. She went into labor at 5:45 AM, and was steadily progressing. She was admitted to the hospital in Atlanta five weeks ahead of schedule.

Upon hearing the news, and within minutes of boarding his next flight, Zach scrambled to change his travel plans. He booked the next flight to Atlanta, and then proceeded to pace the airport while he waited to fly back to Brittany. At this point, she was dilated to 5 centimeters.

Zach tells Babble:

"Being in the army, you never really know what major life experiences you are going to be a part of, and the ones you are going to miss. It is not uncommon for a soldier to miss the birth of his child. Every time a unit comes home, you will always see a big sign that says 'I HAVE WAITED MY WHOLE LIFE TO MEET YOU' with a mom and a young baby in her arms."

He didn't want to be one of those dads and couldn't wait to meet her. He was nearly home free, when one of the planes on the runway hit a deer, causing an hour and a half delay. No sooner was the runway cleared for Zach's plane to take off.

With the long delays, Brittany didn't think he would make it. She was dilated to a 10 before his plane even left the ground, and (as any woman who's been in labor can attest to) it was beyond difficult to wait. Reluctantly, she started pushing.

Bella Baby Photography via Babble

Brittany's best friend Ally was waiting in the car to meet Zach's plane in Atlanta. She rushed him to Piedmont Newnan, where the hospital's CEO and staff were ready to lead him straight to Brittany. (Yes, we can only imagine how fast she must have been driving!)

Greeted with rousing applause, the hospital employees lined the hallways, handing him balloons and a stuffed army bear as he came in. An open elevator then took him to the birthing unit to see his wife.

He found Brittany resting, the epidural had just taken effect, and the baby's heartbeat was strong. She recalled the moment Zach arrived, telling Babble:

"When I heard everyone clapping and yelling in the hallway, my eyes filled with tears. I knew my husband had made it home. It seemed like a dream when I saw him walk through the door. After a hug and a welcome home kiss from him, I have never been more motivated in my life."

She continues, "All of the hospital staff was in tears. He was able to see and feel my pregnant belly for a few moments before it was time to push."

Allison Turpen via Babble

30 minutes later, Brittany gave birth to their daughter.

"We had yet to name her, because Zach did not want to pick out her name across the world. When she was laying on me after birth, he asked her if she wanted her name to be Myra. She picked up her head, looked straight at him, and then put her head back down on my chest. He made it from across the world to welcome his firstborn child into the world," she tells Babble.

Despite being five weeks early, Myra Grace Shryock was born healthy. She weighed 5 pounds, 7 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long.

The couple is so thankful to labor and delivery nurse Misty Wright, who coached and encouraged Brittany through the whole process. But, even more so, they are thankful for the "welcome home" celebration that the entire hospital staff at Piedmont gave Zach.

Zach notes to Babble,

"The Piedmont hospital was amazing! Everyone came and cheered me on as I got out of the car, giving me the best welcoming home I have ever received in my life!"

Brittany Shryock via Babble

While the homecoming was joyful however, no amount of applause could replace the feeling of being reunited with his pregnant wife.

"I have not seen my wife in six months, and seeing her for the first time - laying on the bed and getting ready to have our daughter, Myra - my heart stopped. I have never seen anyone more beautiful in my life. She did, in fact, take my breath away. At that moment, I have never seen anyone so perfect in my life," he says.

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