Babies Bringing Joy In Wartime

The Early Show, Mother and kids of soldier, baby
CBS/The Early Show
When little Isabel Slater came into the world at 8:07 Wednesday morning, only her mother, Melissa, was there to hold her. Isabel's father is a Marine stationed far from home.

"That's the one person you want there, and they are not there," Slater said.

She is not alone. At Camp Lejeune, N.C., more than 17,000 Marines have left for wartime duty in the last few months, leaving their families behind to cope on their own.

For a few of those Marines, it means missing one of life's most important moments, the birth of your baby, reports CBS News Crrespondent Bobbi Harley.

But hours after the big event, the new dad, Sgt. Gary Slater, who was deployed in February, made a surprise telephone call to the new mother.

"He got teary thinking about the baby and not being here. But he said he was good," the Marine wife said.

"We'll videotape and take pictures and just continue to send them, even though the mail's backed up," said Mrs. Slater, who also has another daughter, Allyson.

That's what Rochelle Wilcox has done for her husband, Sgt. Dale Wilcox, who's never seen his baby daughter. He was shipped to the front lines before he even received pictures of baby Jocelyn, who's now 2 months old.

"She's already starting to talk," said Mrs. Wilcox. "She makes noises. She smiles at me. She's starting to recognize me and her brother. And those are the things that really hurt. She doesn't know who her father is."

Like other military moms, Rochelle Wilcox tries to be both mother and father to her children.

"I hug and kiss them as much as I can and let them know it's from daddy, too," she said.

While on her own, she deals with an uncertain future.

"It's kind of hard because I think about all the things that can happen and the fact that he might not come home and never see her," she said.

And this week made coping much more difficult for the families because so many Camp Lejeune Marines have been injured and killed in combat in Iraq.

So the joy of a new baby is really tempered, making it bittersweet times for many families at Camp Lejeune.