ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- Five months ago, Sailors aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) waved goodbye to their family and friends and sailed west on deployment. Since then, five of those Sailors' families have grown by one.
"My wife got pregnant in January and we were hoping for the best," said Fire Controlman 1st Class Austin Emery, from Santa Barbara, California "I hoped that I would get to go home, but the mission is too important to leave."
While in port in Qatar, halfway around the world from his family, Emery's life was changing forever.
"I was on watch when my wife went into labor," said Emery. "I received the text the next day when I was on liberty. I spent the entire day on the phone with my wife. She spent about 15 hours in labor."
In his absence, Emery said he's thankful that their friends and family were there as a support system for his wife.
Yeoman 3rd Class Antwoun Stevens and his wife welcomed their son, Immanuel, Sept. 14. Like so many others, he is navigating the challenges of staying connected to his family while on deployment.
"My wife is making sure to keep me updated," said Stevens. "She sends me pictures and videos as often as she can. I've done United Through Reading so that he can finally hear my voice."
Chief Quartermaster Derek Goehmann, from Lynnwood, Wash., and his wife, N.C., welcomed the newest addition to their family July 5. This is the second time Goehmann has been deployed on his wife's due date.
"My wife gave birth to our son, Evan, via C-section," said Goehmann. "The delivery was scheduled, so, I knew to be expecting word. The pregnancy was labeled a high-risk pregnancy, so that added to the normal stress you experience as an expecting parent. Thankfully, Evan was born perfectly fine."
Sailors may face a conflict between mission and family.
"The situation is not ideal by any standard," said Goehmann. "It's a situation that we can't really control. It seems to be two-fold. I want be there for my wife and as a father for my children, but, I also have this responsibility to my country and mission I enlisted to be a part of."
Having a child is a moment no parent wants to miss. It's a time when parents lean on one another and enjoy the miracle of life. Missing that special day can be very difficult for both parties and Lake Erie's new dads said they have nothing but respect and admiration for their wives.
"My wife is an amazing person and an even better mother," said Goehmann. "She's meticulous and caring and it shows in how well she takes care of our children. In this crazy Navy life, my wife handles it all with an outstanding amount of grace. We are lucky to have her."
With deployment more than halfway done, these new dads are anxiously awaiting the Lake Erie's return home and to hold their new children for the very first time.
"You name the feeling and I'm feeling it," said Stevens. "I'm really nervous. I can't wait to meet and hold him. I want to do all the normal dad things. I know I'll probably be crying the second I see him."
Lake Erie is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.