A new Daddy at war Alabaster baby born while father battles overseas

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

The untimely collision of a blessing and a war has forced Lisa Ledbetter to deal simultaneously with the conflicting emotions of blue bows and yellow ribbons.

Her baby boy was three weeks early.

Delivered by emergency cesarean section on March 18, Joshua Caleb Ledbetter took his first breath at 5:53 p.m. silhouetted against an orange Alabaster sky at Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

She spent the night without her husband, who was at an undisclosed location in the Middle East, waiting for a signal to begin the job he was sent there to complete.

Just a day later, George W. Bush’s war came right on time.

About an hour and a half after the president’s deadline demanding Saddam Hussein’s exile had expired, American warplanes put orange bursts in the dark of an early Bagdhad morning.

While a community struggles to come to terms with a war that has borrowed its fathers, brothers, mothers, co-workers and even one of its mayors, an Alabaster couple is learning to share the greatest moment of their lives together while half a world away in the midst of a perilous time.

Tech. Sgt. Todd Ledbetter knows full well the power of a Middle Eastern wind. He knows the pains of sleeping on a cot in a tent shared by 11 men. He has learned to brush his teeth outside. He knows that the sand, no matter how he tries to stop it, will make its way into everything he owns.

But he does not know the smell of his baby.

He has not held his boy against his bare skin, counted 10 tiny fingers, looked into eyes that are his own.

He struggles to connect with the son he still has not seen except for brief glimpses on a computer monitor while other men wait in line behind him.

Tech. Sgt. Ledbetter learned of his son’s birth by e-mail. He wasn’t able to speak to his wife on the phone until the following day.

While he wants to be home with his wife and the baby that together they have waited years for, he feels his duty is elsewhere.

&uot;I am going to help make the world a better place for my son,&uot; he told his wife shortly before he was deployed with the 187th Fighter Wing out of Montgomery.

As a member of the Air National Guard, Tech. Sgt. Ledbetter was sent overseas where he is in charge of servicing the weaponry on F16 fighter jets.

According to Capt. Paul Griggs, a spokesman for the unit, the 187th’s primary mission is air-to-ground combat including missile and bomb strikes against enemy targets.

The unit is also responsible for providing in-air support for other aircraft.

&uot;I’m really proud of him,&uot; Lisa said of her husband. &uot;I think of him as a hero because being over there and missing out on this part of his life is hard for him.&uot;

In times of peace, Todd works full-time for BellSouth in Hoover.

He and Lisa, a fourth grade teacher at Kingwood Christian School in Alabaster, have been married for nearly three years.

She has been strong, said her friends and family, taking comfort in the blessings of a new child and the promise that her family will again be complete.

&uot;I choose to see the silver lining in it,&uot; Lisa said, &uot;We are going to be a stronger family because of all this.&uot;

With coverage of the war on nearly every TV channel and information constantly available through the Internet, unsettling images can be brought into her home with push of a button.

The reports of protesters who lay in the street and carry signs that oppose the sacrifice her husband has made make her wonder if they &uot;truly understand.&uot;

It’s sometimes difficult to keep her attention on other things, she said, but she has learned to turn off the TV before becoming saturated with images that lead only to worry.

&uot;Even though I have a lot at stake and a lot to lose, I support our president and I support our country and my husband does, too,&uot; she said.

&uot;Even though I miss my husband terribly, it’s brought me closer to God and my family,&uot; Lisa said.

Along with their new child, she shares with her husband a strong faith in God, which she said is what keeps her going during such difficult times.

&uot;God gave me the grace to go through this,&uot; she said.

Lisa also credits her family and the nurses and staff at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, for their support after delivering her baby.

While her husband fights in a foreign land to oust a regime that holds a nation captive to expel a tyrant who poisons his own people, Lisa Ledbetter rocks her baby to sleep with a song.

&uot;Tiny fingers, tiny toes,&uot; she sings, a song by Kevin Derryberry.

The song served as a soundtrack during the couple’s anticipation of little Joshua.

It puts the calm little baby right to sleep, his mother said.

&uot;He has his father’s temperment.&uot;