Soldier rushes home to welcome new life

Andrew “Andy” Sinclair faces death as a soldier in Afghanistan. He braves temperatures that soar to 120 degrees while he drives heavy machinery to rebuild the country.

But this week, the Rock Hill man's mission was to welcome the arrival of a new daughter.

“It's awesome,” said Sinclair, 26, from a hospital room at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill. “Just that I could be here and actually see the birth and see her eyes open. I'm just so happy.”

Almost on cue, 6-pound, 15-ounce Katelynn Marie opened her eyes and mouth, then stretched her long fingers.

Sinclair, minus Army fatigues and gear, swelled with pride.

“Happiness,” he said with that goofy dad smile. “It's just great to see her eating, eyes all wide open.”

Until Aug. 18, Sinclair was serving a 15-month tour of duty as a specialist in Charlie Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion. He wasn't supposed to return to the United States until Thursday, but his wife, Charlene, was going into labor early.

“I got lucky that I came over (early),” he said. “She was so far along and dilated that my unit did everything they could to get me home.”

Meanwhile, Charlene, 29, hoped Sinclair would make it.

“I was terrified,” Charlene said. “The thought that he wasn't going to be here was scary.”

Charlene started having irregular contractions Tuesday. A doctor induced her labor around 8a.m. Wednesday, and Katelynn Marie arrived almost four hours later.

“I saw her look up at me,” Sinclair said. “She knows who her daddy is.”

Before his Army days, Sinclair missed the birth of now-8-year-old twins Amber and John, due to an emergency C-section. After he enlisted in 2005, he was supposed to deploy to Iraq days from the birth of now 2-year-old Emily. But he was allowed to witness the birth and stay home about a month.

This time, Sinclair will head back overseas after spending about 10 days with his newest daughter, Charlene said.

On Wednesday, Sinclair watched Katelynn nurse. He gently rubbed her cheek. And the soldier tried to hide a tear.

“He's up for re-enlistment,” Charlene said.

Sinclair had other thoughts:

“I don't think I am (going to re-enlist). It's really hard being separated from my family.”