When Spc. James Slaasted landed on the Pope Field runway last week, he was anxious to see his family. This was his second homecoming, arriving safely back from Afghanistan with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, and he just wanted to get off the plane.
What he didn’t know was that his wife, who had been waiting for his return, was in labor in the Green Ramp hangar.
As the happy cheers of families grew more intense, so did Stephanee’s contractions. She was more than a week past her due date.
“I had everybody looking at me wondering why I was there,” Stephanee said. “I could hardly walk. I was absolutely huge. I’m waiting for my husband to come home. There’s no way I’m missing this.”
Meanwhile, James was sprinting down the runway. He spotted his 7-year-old daughter, Eva, and his mother on the Green Ramp sidelines, crammed into the melee of people with signs. He grabbed his daughter, hugging her to his chest, and kept running. It had been months since he’d seen his wife, who was hunched over on the benches.
As soon as she saw him and her stepdaughter, Stephanee laughed and simply said, “Welcome home, honey.”
They barreled down the All American Expressway in their truck, rushing to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
“I made it to the inside where the wheelchairs are and I was done,” Stephanee said. “I thought it was going to happen right then and there.”
After James departed in February for his deployment, they would chat on Yahoo Messenger and place bets on the gender and the amount of hair the baby would have.
And mere hours after James arrived back in the U.S., at 3:22 p.m., Damien Brandtly Slaasted was born. He was seven pounds, 10 ounces, 21 inches long, with a beautiful head of hair.
It was Stephanee’s first deployment, first homecoming and first child. The couple described the homecoming as “one hell of a ride.” Now, pieces of an Army combat uniform litter the living room, and a “Welcome Home Daddy” sign lays by the fireplace. Stephanee and James now take turns holding their newborn, welcoming him into the world together.
“Holding him when I do, everything just clicks,” Stephanee said. “It just all comes together.”