Baby Boom Hits the Base

Fort Bragg has seen a spike in births following soldiers return home.

Nov. 28, 2008 — -- For Fort Bragg soldiers, the send of the surge in Iraq led to an unexpected surge at home. Since the 22,000 members of the 82nd airborne began returning to the states a year ago, the number of births at the base has increased by 50 percent.

The Fort Bragg hospital has been delivering 10 babies a day. The base's hospital started noticing a spike in births over the summer, with nearly 300 a month.

The presence of prominent bellies and babies are ever apparent on base and a sure sign the trend will continue into 2009 as officials expect.

Capt. Jennifer Hernandez admitted she got pregnant the same day her husband returned from abroad. Now, she has trouble finding maternity wear because of the higher demand, and items she purchased are on back order.

And while some soldiers may be confident in combat, they are less so about tackling the parental role.

"I'm terrified of the baby coming. I can run down the street of Baghdad no problem, but baby coming, I just don't know what to do," said specialist and father-to-be Nathan Smith.

That's why many soldiers are enlisting in Daddy 101 classes.

The recent rash of babies also has helped some fathers recoup and recover from battle wounds.

Sgt. Ulises Lopez Castaneda and his wife, Amanda Lopez, recently welcomed a son named Dominic.

When Lopez Castaneda returned following an Afghanistan tour last April suffering from partial lung loss after he had been shot and nearly died, his demeanor was far different.

"He was very detached. And very to himself, and he said he couldn't feel certain emotions," Lopez said of her husband.

Then Dominic arrived and things changed.

"It gives you something extra to live for," Lopez Castaneda said. "It brought our family together and I'm sure it does the same for other families."