Story and photo by Chuck Roberts
LRMC Public Affairs
***image3*:right**Isabella can’t even talk yet, but the 2-day-old infant will have an interesting story to tell one day about her birth at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Her dad, Staff Sgt. Leonard Day, was deployed to Afghanistan where he escaped death Aug. 8 when his Humvee was destroyed by an improvised explosive device. Her mom, Angelina, was 35 weeks pregnant at the time at their home in Vicenza, Italy, when she received the phone call letting her know Leonard was injured, but would be OK.
The family reunited five days later in Germany where Angelina arrived by bus with her 3-year-old daughter Esperanza, 18-month-old son Alejandro, and her twin sister, Celina, who had traveled to Italy to help during the pregnancy.
A few days later, they were joined by Leonard’s parents, Leonard Sr. and Antionette from Gallup, N.M. The entire family was allowed to set up temporary residence in the nearby Fisher House. LRMC has two of 38 such homes designed to assist military families in times of crisis.
Angelina thought they would stay in Germany for about a week. But, when it became apparent that the baby was coming soon, an Army support network arranged to keep the family together for the big event.
That day must have seemed far away to Sergeant Day during the evening of Aug. 8 while on a convoy patrol. The 27-year-old weapons squadron leader’s vehicle was maneuvering out of a ditch when it struck an IED. The right front of the vehicle disintegrated, and Sergeant Day said it was only because they were traveling at such a slow speed that the explosion didn’t happen under his passenger seat.
Instead, he was injured when a door handle tore through his arm and hand, taking away tissue and breaking bones that have since been treated with screws and a metal plate.
“I can’t get over how much worse it could have been,” said Angelina after seeing the photo of the mangled vehicle.
Sergeant Day had similar thoughts at the scene of the explosion. After a quick blood clot treatment was applied to his right arm, his platoon sergeant shined a light on the Humvee for Sergeant Day to see.
“I was amazed at what the explosion had done,” he said from his hospital bed.
His journey for medical aid included ground transportation back to base, a quick medical evacuation flight to a forward medical treatment facility, a flight to Bagram Air Base the next day, and a C-17 flight to Germany the day after.
During the journey, his thoughts were on his Soldiers and things he might have done to prevent the incident, he said. The Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment are like family to him.
“I’d rather it be me that got hit than them,” he said. No others were injured in the blast.
Soon he accepted what happened, focusing on his family and on family member who hadn’t quite arrived yet. From the battlefield, he made sure that someone called his wife to tell her that his injuries weren’t life threatening.
It was about 10 p.m. when Angelina received the call. It took only an instant for her to realize something was wrong.
“I already knew where the call was going,” Angelina said.
She understood and believed Leonard was OK, but it became more of a reality about 4 a.m. the next morning.
“I was shaken, but not completely content until I heard his voice,” she said.
Beginning with their arrival at LRMC, Angelina said they have been overwhelmed by the support, ranging from generals to enlisted liaison officers, who helped with things like travel and finance.
“It’s been such a great thing that they were able to do that,” Angelina said of the arrangement that kept her in Germany for the birth of her child.
“It shows that the Army cares about family and keeping them strong and united,” said Sergeant Day.
For Isabella, the story of her birth is likely one she’ll hear numerous times over the years, until, one day, it finally becomes her own.