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Coming Home to a Baby

A sailor holding and kissing his child.

FORT KNOX, Ky. -- His story may be similar to other soldiers returning from a yearlong deployment to eastern Afghanistan. But that similarity of seeing a new child only briefly prior to returning to a combat zone hasn’t made fatherhood any less special for Spc. Marquis Lawrence.

Lawrence, an aviation operator with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, and a native of Columbus, Ga., completed a one-year deployment to eastern Afghanistan with the rest of the Fort Knox-based Duke Brigade.

Like all deployed soldiers on yearlong combat tour, he had the option of taking 15 days of mid-tour leave. With his wife Shauntel expecting their first child in early 2011, the decision to go home for leave was a no-brainer.

Their son Marshaun was born on April 5, and Shauntel was one of many expectant Duke Brigade mothers doing the best she could with their soldier’s absence during the last few months before Marshaun arrived.

“Pregnancy is something you want to experience together,” said Shauntel. “It was very hard in the beginning, but you just deal with it and move on.”

Despite being separated by eight time zones, Marquis tried to stay in touch. His preferred method of doing so, and one employed by countless other soldiers, was through internet video chat.

Marquis was able to go home on mid-tour leave in July, seeing then-3-month-old Marshaun for the first time. The experience was certainly a joyful one for Marquis, feeding and playing with his son as much as he could.

“My family said that I spoiled him because I held him so much,” said Lawrence.

Shauntel also relished the opportunity to see father and son getting to know each other.

“Marshaun adapted well with seeing Marquis for the first time,” she said. “It was great being a family for that little time.”Still, the day came all too quickly when he had to board the plane for the return trip to Afghanistan.

“[Going back] was extremely hard, and the fear of not coming home again was tough to take,” said Lawrence.

Shauntel agreed.

“Any time away from Marquis is hard,” said Shauntel. “I hated it. I just prayed that God would bring him back to us and that the rest of the deployment would go by fast.”

Staying busy while deployed and keeping regular communication with home made his remaining time on tour go faster than it might otherwise have, said Marquis, although that separation became more difficult once Marshaun started to sound words like “Da-Da” during the video chats.

Luckily, the remainder of the deployment was uneventful for all family members, and everyone was reunited when Marquis returned to Fort Knox in December.

“It was so exciting! The night before I couldn’t sleep. I woke up around 2 a.m. and couldn’t go back to bed,” said Shauntel.

Marshaun is presently crawling and “getting into everything,” according to Marquis, with a mischievous personality already starting to develop as well.

“He likes to look at you to see if you’re paying attention before he gets into things,” said Marquis, adding that Marshaun has a stubborn streak popping up to go along with a hearty appetite.

And like most proud fathers, Marquis looks forward to what lies ahead for Marshaun, not only in the short term, but also for his formative years.

“I’m ready to see what type of personality he develops and what type of interests he’ll have,” said Lawrence.

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