"It meant the world to be able to be there."
Jonathan, Madi and Harriet King
"It was so scary at first wondering, 'Is he going to make it?' It was so important to me to have him there," said Madi King of Shreveport, Louisiana, on the events leading up to the birth of her first child. "We were trying to wait, and the hospital said, 'We'll wait as long as we can, but if your blood pressure spikes, we're going to have to take her.'"
Madi was admitted to the hospital in early April with all the warning signs of pre-eclampsia — a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. She was to be induced in 24 hours, two weeks before her husband, Jonathan King, was scheduled to go on leave from his deployment in South Korea.
"My mom was a big part of this because she is the one who contacted the American Red Cross for me," said Jonathan, a cable and antenna systems technician in the Air Force currently stationed in South Korea. "I was hoping to be part of the birth, but I wasn't the most optimistic because of how last minute it was."
After Jonathan received the news that his daughter would be arriving early, his mother set Red Cross Emergency Communications services into motion to get him home in time to be with his wife. Jonathan began working quickly with his leadership on the base to coordinate his leave and travel arrangements.
"Once the Red Cross was able to confirm Madi's status with pre-eclampsia, they booked me a flight, and I got to the airport that same night," said Jonathan. "I was so incredibly thankful to the Red Cross, my leadership and my family that put it all together."
When a loved one back home initiates an emergency communications message to connect with a service member, the Red Cross works to verify the emergency independently. Emergency communications services enable the service member's commander to make an educated decision regarding emergency leave and provide transportation or financial assistance if needed.
"He made it just in the nick of time. My mom picked him up from the airport, he drove her car and they flew to the hospital," said Madi. "He got here an hour before Harriet did."
Major life events, such as a birth, death or a critical emergency, such as a home fire, present unique challenges for military families. In the wake of an emergency, the Red Cross Hero Care Network works to ensure military families can communicate with their loved ones who may be serving on a ship, in a remote location or on a mission with little connectivity.
"I was amazed at being able to be there, and I was so in love with Harriet — so in love with Madi," said Jonathan. "I couldn't have been happier in that moment. It meant the world to me to be able to be there."
Jonathan recently celebrated six years with the Air Force. While deployed overseas, he stays in touch with Madi and Harriet over FaceTime.
"Being able to look back at the pictures from when she was born and to look at her now on Facetime, she's grown so much," said Jonathan. "Yes, I haven't been there for it all, but I can still see her love for Madi and my parents. Whenever she sees me, she lights up and gives me this big old toothless smile."
"Harriet is amazing — she's six months old. She loves FaceTiming her daddy," said Madi. "We dealt with infertility for several years, and we were days away from starting fertility treatments when we found out we were pregnant with her. Everything for Harriet's story has been really cool to see."
Coming up on the end of his one-year assignment, Jonathan will soon be returning home. And for the first time in three years, he will get to spend the holidays with his family and introduce them to his baby girl.
"We're so excited for everyone to meet Harriet," said Madi.
About Red Cross Emergency Communications One of the many ways the Red Cross supports U.S. service members is through the Hero Care Center. In times of emergency, the Red Cross helps military families communicate with their loved ones through the Hero Care Network, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week online, by phone and through the mobile app. This year, Red Cross volunteers delivered emergency communications messages connecting over 87,000 service members with their loved ones during times of family need.