CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Lance Cpl. Charles Monroe Bates doesn’t have a wallet photo of his first child just yet. The tiny screen on his MP3 player will have to do for now.
The Marine Corps Integrated Management System clerk with Headquarters and Support Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment heard his first child’s first breath at the battalion’s phone center at Camp Fallujah, May 16.
Lillian Swan Bates was born at 12:22 p.m., weighing in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces at a hospital in Medford, Ore.
“It’s extraordinary ... amazing,” said the 25-year-old from Middletown, Ohio. “I think about it every night and when I wake up. It’s a dream I’ve always had, to be a dad.”
Charles and his wife, Michelle, found out about their pregnancy just before the battalion began its intensive pre-deployment training nine months ago. They knew the child’s birth would happen during the deployment and Bates couldn’t contain his excitement as the nine-month mark drew near.
“He pretty much talked about it every single day,” said Lance Cpl. Weslie Thien, Bates’ roommate. “The day his child was born was mostly a surprise. He didn’t know the exact day, but the week leading up to it he was anxious.”
Bates had just finished his work for the day at the battalion’s armory. He explained his situation to the duty sergeant at the phone center, who told Bates he could talk as long as he needed.
His sister-in-law answered the first call and handed the phone to Michelle. They spoke on the phone for two hours as she endured increasingly frequent contractions.
“She started to dilate, and she was concentrating more on the phone than the pushing so her nurse told me to a call back in 30 minutes,” he said.
Tense minutes passed as he waited to make the next call.
His timing was perfect.
“Right as I called back, her sister picked up the phone and said ‘hold on a second; wait for it ... now!’ and you could hear the baby’s first cry,” he said. “My first thought was ‘I’m a dad!’”
“Once he told me, he was full of joy, and couldn’t get the smile off his face,” said Thein, 24, from Woodrider, Ill.
Bates was born in Panama City, Fla. His father, a career Air Force airman, moved his family to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated Middletown High School in 1998, where he played soccer for the Middletown Middies. He enrolled at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for three semesters until his mother, Priscilla Bates Swan, became ill.
“My mom was diagnosed with cancer, so I took time off to go be with her,” he said. “She’s 100 percent recovered now. She’s a strong woman – a survivor.”
Bates then worked various jobs until he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps in February of 2004. He said his experience in the Corps has helped prepare him for fatherhood.
“The Marine Corps taught me that I can pretty much take on anything,” he said. “I know I can deal with whatever comes at me.”
Thein saw his own firstborn son delivered the day he returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. He said he has faith that his friend will rise to the role of fatherhood.
“I honestly think he’s going to make a good dad,” he said. “He’s an all-around good guy and good Marine.”
Bates said his own optimism comes from family support, particularly from the women in his life.
“My mom has done a lot to make my family happen,” he said. “My wife is wonderful. I’d like to thank her family for being there for her, for us, during this time. They helped to support her when I wasn’t there.”
Bates has since seen Lillian though emailed pictures, Web-based cameras and listened to her cooing over the phone.
“It’s been quite an adventure already and I’m not even there,” he said. “When I get home, I don’t think I’ll ever put her down.”