Soldier returns home in time for birth of son

Holding his two-year-old daughter, Grace Shaw in one arm, Josiah Shaw of the United States Air Force kisses his pregnant wife, Sarah Shaw, at the Victoria Regional Airport shortly after landing from Afghanistan Thursday. Sarah Shaw is due to deliver the couple's second child any day now.

On a leather sofa at Grandma Sharon Burns' house, a 4-day-old Jackson Shaw crinkles his newborn face then yawns in satisfaction.

Jackson's midday meal, provided by Mom, Sarah Shaw, puts the infant to sleep in short order.

Sarah Shaw lifts Jackson lightly from her lap. The baby opens and closes his eyes in slow motion and remains untroubled when his swaddling blanket falls to expose his wee legs.

Sarah smiles at her boy, then glances at her husband, Josiah Shaw, as he searches on his knees under the sofa for Jackson's missing pacifier.

"Are you sure you don't see it?" Sarah asks, holding up the baby and dangling his toes on her lap.

Burns walks in the room to assist and giggles as she locates the pink pacifier near the coffee table.

It's a casual moment any other young, married couple might experience with their newborn on a Sunday afternoon. But for the Shaws, their moments together with baby Jackson and their 2-year-old daughter Grace are cherished.

Ten days ago, a pregnant and three-centimeters-dilated Sarah, joined her family at the Victoria Airport to surprise her husband with a special homecoming.

For the past four months, Josiah, an Air Force senior airman, has been serving as an aircraft mechanic on the "Enduring Freedom" mission in southern Afghanistan.

He deployed when Sarah was newly pregnant, holding a then-18-month-old Grace, who was still young enough not to realize her daddy was leaving for war.

So when Sarah and the rest of the family learned Josiah would unexpectedly be home in time for the birth of Jackson, they knew his homecoming would be doubly special.

"I cried when I heard the news," said Burns, Josiah's mother. "We just prayed that he would be able to come home in time. ... I was thrilled."

At the airport more than a week ago, Josiah walked off the airplane in military fatigues and into an immediate embrace with his wife and daughter.

"I was nervous. I kept thinking he wasn't going to make it. I knew I couldn't hold this baby in too long," Sarah said.

Sarah and Sharon organized an over-the-top welcoming for their hero soldier, decorating signs and banners and American flags in Josiah's honor.

"Everything was painted up," Sharon Burns said, mentioning the homecoming decorations that continued along her neighborhood street. "I go hard or go home with things like this. I want everyone to know I'm proud."

Josiah said he was excited he was able to be home in time to see the birth of his first son, especially when he knows many other military fathers are deployed when their children are born.

"They were cutting down troops and, for a minute, it seemed like there was a pretty good chance I might not make it home because they were getting out the high-priority people," Josiah said. "I know a lot of guys who miss their kids being born."

The couple plans to stay in Victoria with family for the next few days until they return to base in Las Vegas.

Josiah, who has served in the Air Force for five years and plans to be an Air Force lifer, said his eyes have been opened to the sacrifices American military men and women make to volunteer for war.

"I was in the military for four years before I understood what it meant to be deployed. I'm still thinking about the people who are there," he said. "I'm grateful to be home, but the war doesn't stop because I'm home. There are so many still there."

But for now, he'll spend a few days in civilian life - as a husband, father, and son.

"I'm just proud to have a son, and I think he's great," Josiah said. "I'm glad I could be here for it. I'm glad I'm home."