When you serve your country, it isn’t just you who has to go through hardships. It’s your entire family. And the person who usually has to bear the most significant burden when you are not there is your husband or wife.
When you serve your country, it is the support and love of your family that keeps you going, especially when times are tough. As a soldier, you cannot be distracted by what is happening at home; you need to focus on your job 100%.
This wasn’t the first time that US Navy Petty Officer Chris Daugherty was being deployed abroad. And neither was this the first that he would have to spend an extended period away from his family. Daugherty, who was leaving for yet another tour of duty in January of 2016, was expecting to be away for five months.
But, as is the case in many military deployments, his tour of duty ended up being longer than he had expected. And that wasn’t the only surprise that was coming his way. Chris Daugherty did not know that he would be coming home to a life-changing surprise.
Sailing to Foreign Seas
A Military spouse may be respected, but life is anything but easy. And this is something that both Chris and his wife, Natasha, were well aware of. The young couple, based out of Temecula, California, had three beautiful children. However, when it was time for Chris to leave on deployment, things were always heartbreakingly tough.
That day, Daugherty’s family came to port to give him a loving – and slightly tearful – sendoff. Deployed on the USS Vinson, this Navy cryptographic technician was headed to the Korean Peninsula. The Petty Officer would spend his days decoding signals and messages, but he had no idea that there was something big going on at home.
Long, Lonely Months
One of the hardest parts of being a military spouse is the endless months of loneliness. And Natasha was no exception to that rule. Just one week after Chris had left on deployment, Natasha began to change.
Those changes were very subtle at first – a slight difference here and there. However, as the weeks and then months passed by, it became harder and harder for Natasha to conceal the truth. And there was one person at home from whom she had to do everything possible to hide the truth.
Kids Will Tell
With Chris away on duty, Natasha was, for all practical purposes, a single mother. And she had three kids to take care of. Her eldest was old enough to understand that he needed to keep quiet about what was happening at home. However, it wasn’t that easy with her little toddler.
Her four-year-old little girl was too young to understand that she wasn’t supposed to say anything about what was happening at home, so Natasha constantly worried that every time she spoke with her father, she might give the secret away.
A Worrisome Dilemma
Even though Natasha was burning the candle at both ends and had no time to spare, she was always thinking about whether she should tell her husband what was going on or not. After all, he did have a right to know.
The dilemma that she was facing was that while he may have a right to know about something that was going to have a huge impact not just on him, but on the entire family if she told him while he was so far away from them, it would affect his work.
What made things worse was that Chris made it a point to keep in constant touch with them, which meant that it was even more difficult to hold such a huge secret from him. Would Chris finally notice that Natasha was hiding something from him?
Natasha and Chris were both in the Navy when they met. Natasha was an IT Systems Technician. Chris fell in love with her immediately. He couldn’t believe that he had found someone who was not just beautiful and intelligent but also had so much in common with him.
They got married in 2011, and after so many years of marriage, it was difficult for Natasha to keep secrets from Chris. Till now. She had to wrestle with her conscience but finally decided that this was not something that she could tell her husband long distance. She had to say to him face-to-face.
Not Just Him
Natasha had planned to write Chris an email and tell him everything. But then, at the last moment, she realized that this wasn’t news that you could give through a letter.
And it wasn’t just Chris that Natasha had to keep her secret from. It was the entire family. The problem was that the rest of the family was right there, and they would notice something was going on with Natasha. How was she going to keep this secret from everyone?
While Natasha struggled with her problem, there was terrible news from Chris. Close to where Chris was deployed, there was a dangerous situation that was threatening to go out of control.
The government of North Korea began testing ballistic missiles over the Sea of Japan. The communist nation repeatedly shot these missiles, showing no restraint or concern about international relations.
With Chris’s unit so close to the impact zone, everyone at home was worried about what would happen to him.
To help ends meet while Chris was overseas, serving his country, Natasha was working two jobs over and above taking care of their three children.
Managing all of this on her own was tough, and there were many times that Natasha just wanted to give up and tell Chris everything. But, she said to herself, she just needed to wait another week. Chris was going to be back from his deployment and then she could tell him everything and be done with the whole thing.
But then there was even more bad news coming their way.
After five tough months, Chris was looking forward to going home and reuniting with his family. He missed them so much. Then came the bad news. His tour of duty had been extended by another 30 days.
With the political and military situation in the Korean Peninsula so tense, there was no way that they could leave their posts at this time. They needed to wait and watch.
That extra one month was almost too much for Natasha to bear. She had already been through so much and just needed to tell Chris everything. But she would now have to wait another long month before she could.
The Dilemma Continues
The uncertainty tore Natasha. Her decision not to tell was now eating at her. Especially with the dangerous situation that Chris was in – what if he never came back? God forbid something happened to Chris before she could tell him, she would not be able to live with herself.
Later, in an interview with NBC, Natasha said that as soon as Chris had told her about the tensions with North Korea, she became worried. She felt that he was telling her goodbye. Natasha was extremely emotional at this point and was barely holding it together. She just wanted to say to him! But she pulled the last vestiges of her willpower together and held on.
The Day Arrives!
Finally, after half a year apart, the Daugherty family was reuniting. Chris was making his voyage home, sailing back to the American West Coast.
The family was buzzing with excitement. The kids were barely able to contain their excitement about their father coming home.
But Natasha was now scared. She had kept this secret from him the entire time that he was away. It was now time to tell him. But how would he react?
Welcome Home, Soldier
Finally, on June 23, 2017, Chris Daugherty’s ship docked in San Diego. His entire family had made the journey from Temecula to welcome him home.
As he walked down the gangplank, he burst into a huge smile as he saw his whole family waiting excitedly for him. Chris’ two little girls and son were dressed in sailor uniforms, and they rushed forward to greet him. While the children swarmed all over their father, Natasha hung back. And then, as Chris – arms full of children – walked towards her, he was stunned.
Is this Real?
Natasha stood to wait for her husband, holding up a big poster with a welcome back message on it. He didn’t get the message. He moved to hug his wife. Natasha stepped back and dropped the sign. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
It took him a few moments to come out of shock. And when he was able to speak, he said, “Is that real?”
The Big Reveal
The welcome home sign that Natasha had been holding said “Welcome Home Baby Daddy.” Chris didn’t think much about the message on the poster. After all, he was the daddy of three kids!
But what he didn’t know was that that sign was much more significant than he realized. Natasha dropped poster she was holding to reveal the shirt she had been covering all this time. She was wearing a top that said, “I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he deployed”!
She was pregnant! But what happened next had almost everyone at the pier misty-eyed.
When talking about that reunion, Chris said he was confused at first. He said he thought that Natasha was playing a trick on him and he poked her tummy to make sure it was the real deal.
Once Chris recovered a little from his “surprise,” the couple finally kissed and hugged each other, enjoying the fact that he was home and taking in the news that there was soon to be another member in their family.
They were already so full of emotion; it didn’t seem possible for things to get any better. But they did.
What Chris did not realize what that he had come home on an exceptional day – Father’s Day. He realized that he had just received the best Father’s Day gift any man could have gotten.
Later, in an interview, he said he already had three kids, so another one would only add to the madness and excitement in their home. He was so looking forward to meeting the newest member of the Daugherty family.
But there was still more – they didn’t know they were going to be famous!
A Well Kept Secret
Natasha had wanted to keep the secret about her pregnancy not just from Chris, but from everyone. If no one knew, then no one could spoil the surprise for Chris. However, as her pregnancy progressed, she obviously couldn’t keep her secret from their friends and family.
So she did the next best thing. She swore everyone to secrecy! In return, they insisted on being there for the homecoming so that they could see Chris’s reaction.
One of them captured the entire incident on video and posted it to Facebook where it went viral. That video of Chris and Natasha chalked up more than half a million views. Even then, no one, least of all Chris would have guessed the lengths to which Natasha had gone to conceal her pregnancy. That was revealed later.
Hiding Her Pregnancy
So that she could give the man she loved the best surprise of his life, Natasha found a creative way to hide her pregnancy from him. She needed to act entirely normal – and more importantly – look normal. And that required getting creative.
She had to send Chris regular photo updates so that he could feel connected to home and to keep him motivated while he served his country. She came up with some exciting ways in which to hide her big little secret.
The “Cover Up”
When taking pictures that were going to be sent to Chris, Natasha found ways to cover her increasingly large belly. In one instance, she put the baby on her lap to hide her stomach. And then, another time, she held a beer can (which she didn’t drink!) in front of her in such a way that her stomach was covered.
But pictures were not the only cover up needed. Her curious little ones required to be kept in the dark so that they couldn’t blurt out her secret. Natasha laughed later, saying that she had to tell her four-year-old that she was getting fat! She said if she hadn’t done so, her little girl would have let the cat out of the bag. But that was not the end of the story!
Making the Decision
During an interview with ABC News, Natasha said she found out about her pregnancy just one week after he left. She was about eight weeks pregnant at that time. She said she retook the pregnancy test because she didn’t believe it.
Natasha was so excited that she wanted to tell Chris the news immediately. Then, when she thought about it, she decided that she would surprise him. She decided to document her pregnancy by taking a picture of her growing belly every week; that way Chris wouldn’t miss any stage of the pregnancy. And there was still more.
The Hardest Thing
Keeping this most exciting secret was probably the hardest thing that Natasha had ever done. But she knew that if she had told her husband while he was away on deployment, then he would have continuously worried that it would have distracted him for his work.
While she wanted to share all her feelings with Chris, in the end, she decided that not telling him would be for the best. The surprise would be worth the hardship. And anyway, what she didn’t know that there was still another surprise waiting for both of them!
The Final Surprise
Natasha figured that even though she would be able to surprise her husband with news of her pregnancy, there was yet another, final surprise that she just thought she would be able to give her husband. And she was right.
The one thing that was still a mystery when Chris came home to get the surprise of his life was about the baby. Were they going to have a boy or a girl?
The Final Reveal
Natasha was confident that the first celebration once Chris was back was going to be a party for the final reveal – the baby’s gender. Friend and family gathered together to find out the ultimate secret that Natasha had been keeping.
And while everyone waited with bated breath, Natasha and Chris revealed a bundle of balloons that, when popped, showered everyone with pink confetti. The final reveal was done – it was a girl!
Their fourth baby was due in August, which gave them a little time to do something meaningful.
What was desperately needed for the Daugherty family was some time together? While they stocked up on baby essentials, Chris and Natasha also spent precious time bonding with their three kids before the baby came. They even got to take some time out for a maternity photo shoot.
Chris spent as much as he could with his three little ones, but there was something that was looming over everyone’s head.
The one dark cloud in the happy time was the question of Chris’s deployment. As August drew closer, the biggest questions that were on their minds were whether Chris would be there for her birth and if he was, then how long would he spend with his baby daughter before duty called again? Another question that haunted the family was that when he was deployed, how long would it be for? Would world events conspire to keep him away from his family even longer?
The entire family prayed that Chris would stick around long enough to greet his new baby.
Still Some Time
One of the things about being in the military is that you don’t know when you could call up. It can happen at a moment’s notice. However, Petty Officer Chris Daugherty was hoping that wouldn’t be the case. He wanted to meet his new little princess.
Thankfully, he got the news that he would most probably be deployed in early 2018, meaning he would not only be there in the delivery room to greet his new little girl but would also have a chance to spend time with her before he left for his next tour of duty.
Welcome the Little Princess
Well, just like her daddy had been delayed, the newest addition to the family was late too. She made her appearance on September 2, 2017. She was named Anara Rose and became the sixth member of their happy family.
Chris was thrilled and wanted to share his happiness with the world. He posted her coming on Facebook, saying, “We love you so much… can’t wait to bring you home.”
Worth the Sacrifice
The happy couple agreed that they were glad Natasha had not told Chris about the baby. Even though Natasha had to face the first seven months alone, she was happy that Chris was there for the most critical part it all – the birth of their baby daughter.
She also felt satisfied that by keeping the news from Chris, she helped him focus on his work at a critical time.
Natasha and Chris expressed their feelings about this incredible adventure. Chris said that this was an awesome surprise. He said that while Natasha could have told him about her pregnancy over the phone or in an email, this way was so unique.
Natasha also echoed his sentiments. She said that while the experience had been tough for her, she was glad she surprised him the way she did. She said she felt happy knowing she had given him the surprise of his life.
CBS interviewed the happy couple just before Chris was going to ship out. Jamie Yuccas of CBS asked Natasha whether she was planning any more surprises for her military husband. She laughed and said “No.” But then, she said, only time will tell.
In retrospect, one surprise like this is more than enough. And now, it was time for the family to prepare for the next stage – Chris’s departure. And even though this was not a surprise, it nonetheless was something the family had to prepare for.
As schedules, in early 2018, Petty Officer Chris Daugherty shipped out of the US, for another four-month-long tour of duty. This tour took him to Vietnam, the Philippines and Guam. Natasha had promised him that this time there would be no surprises waiting for him when he got home from his deployment.
Spending so much time away from your family gives you a chance to reflect on life. Chris promised himself that this time when he went home, he would spend less time on electronics and more time with his family. As his tour of duty came to an end, he sailed homeward, wondering if Natasha had kept her promise of no more surprises.
Chris arrived home safe and sound – and pleasantly unsurprised. Or, at least, he didn’t receive any surprises that we went viral on social media. He missed his family and was glad to be home.
This homecoming was a peaceful one, with no excitement for the public to enjoy. It was merely a military man coming home to his waiting family after a long time away serving his country.
A Part of History
Very soon after the video of Petty Officer Chris Daugherty went viral, the story was picked up by news channels. Media outlets across the US wanted to interview the couple about their lovely heartwarming story, and many articles were written about the story of the naval wife surprising her husband.
And while the life of a Navy man and his family continued, there was another story to be told on the other side of the country. And this story too was about a military man, his wife, and her pregnancy. The difference was that this serviceman knew his wife was pregnant. The twist in this tale was different.
Unlike Petty Officer Chris Daugherty, Jon Keeney found out his wife Megan was pregnant just two days before he was going on deployment. And again, unlike Daugherty, the place he was being sent to was much more volatile – it was a war zone. He had even less hope of being able to make it home.
It was 2012, and Keeney was on active duty in Afghanistan. He was a part of the 305th US Military Police Unit there.
Six years ago, in 2007, he had signed up as a Reserve and had already completed a tour of duty in Iraq. He then volunteered to go to Afghanistan to serve his country once again. And while he was in that war-torn country, he got some terrible news from home.
Bad News from Home
Keeney knew Megan was pregnant before he got deployed. He knew he was now fighting to protect more than just his people. He was also struggling to protect his unborn child back home in West Virginia.
But then the unthinkable happened. His wife received terrible news about their baby. When she was five months pregnant, Megan found out that the baby had a heart defect and that his blood was not flowing correctly. The birth was going to be complicated and full of risk.
According to doctors, this type of congenital heart defect occurred in 1,900 babies every year in the US. The danger was not while the baby was in the womb since oxygenation took place through the placenta.
The danger was going to be when the baby was born and would have to use his own heart to pump blood.
He Needed to Get Back Home
Keeney was on active duty, but he knew he had to find a way to get back home to his wife and child. There were so many worries on his mind. Was he going to make it back in time to be by his wife’s side when his son was born? And more importantly, was his son going to be okay? Was he going to survive?
Luckily, Jon was able to secure home leave just weeks before Megan was due to deliver their baby. But things were not easy. As he tried to make his way back home, his flights were all canceled.
Racing Against Time
Jon finally managed to get on to a flight homeward bound, but fate seemed to be conspiring against him. Further flights were delayed, and he struggled to get back home on time.
And then came even more bad news. The final leg of his flight, a chartered plane from Germany to the US was canceled at the last minute. He was stranded for the next four days. Worry ate at him as he wondered how Megan was doing.
In the Nick of Time
Just as Keeney was about to give up home, there was a ray of light. His father, a Baptist pastor, stepped in and used his connections with representatives from West Virginia and US Senators to get his son back home. Jon was finally able to get on a flight home – in the nick of time.
Barely two days after Jon arrived, Megan went into labor and was taken to West Virginia University Children’s Hospital. But she was thankful that her husband was by her side now.
And on June 7, 2012, Jon and Megan greeted their son, Jaxon Lucas Keeney. But it was not a happy moment. Little Jaxon was rushed into emergency life-saving surgery as soon as he was born.
Just minutes after he was born, baby Jaxon Keeney was rushed into emergency surgery. His heart problem needed to be corrected immediately if he was to survive. This was a traumatic time for young parents. They didn’t know if their son was going to survive and they couldn’t do anything to help him. Thankfully, the Keeneys were fortunate.
After a frightening week of procedures, the surgery on baby Jaxon was a complete success, and the proud parents were able to take their baby home!
Even though he was home, Jon and Megan continued to keep a close eye of their little one. Luckily, the outcome was finally a positive one. Baby Jaxon not only survived but he flourished. This was one military family that was finally on the right track and was looking at a beautiful future together.