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Exempla Links Soldier with Family, Newborn Baby

January 29, 2008
Family Connection Exempla links soldier with family, newborn baby By Mollie Foster Colorado Hometown Newspapers Cpl. Nick Jenkins didn’t know when he would meet his newborn baby girl. But with the help of a satellite connection from Fallujah, Iraq, and a big screen, the soldier didn’t have to settle for a baby picture or belated letter. Saturday, Jan. 19, he spoke to his family face-to-face — including his daughter, Alyson Rayne, who was born Saturday morning at Lafayette’s Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center. Nestled into the arms of Jenkins’ high school sweetheart, Amee Tanksley, baby Alyson slept soundly next to her older brother, Dylan, who was busy blowing kisses to Daddy, assuring him that he was safe and advising Daddy to do the same. While Saturday morning served as Jenkins’ introduction to his daughter, he also hadn’t seen Dylan since June, when he was deployed to Iraq for the third time. “I think the best part was for Nick to watch his 2 ½ year old be a 2 1/2 year old,” Amee said. “He’s seen about a year of his life. Dylan is a whole different kid now.” While Nick has missed some of Dylan’s life, he caught the beginning of Alyson Rayne’s with perfect timing. Nick was lucky enough to call the hospital Friday afternoon and hear baby Alyson’s arrival at 3:14 p.m. “Yeah, I got to hear Amee scream and cry,” Nick said. “That was (Alyson), not me,” Amee joked. Although 23-year-old Amee has the support of her friends and family, life without her fiancé is not easy. With their newest addition to the family, she has twice the amount of work to do. “It’s a complete adjustment without Nick,” Amee said. “There are only two hands instead of four. You try to enjoy it and make good memories, but at the same time hold onto the old ones.” The family’s connection on Saturday happened thanks to a non-profit organization called Freedom Calls. Freedom Calls sets up the connection for soldiers in Iraq to connect with their loved ones in the US, free of charge. The organization has allowed soldiers to be a part of important family events from births to graduations, birthdays and even weddings. Amee was thankful for the broadcast and said she would do it again in a heartbeat. “It made a huge difference, it made him seem not so far away,” she said. Saturday was a memory the whole family will not forget. Video cameras, photographers and reporters filled the hospital room, but all Nick saw was his family and his two children. He was unaware the media was there during the broadcast, Amee said. “He thought when I said ‘there was a lot of cameras here’ that I meant our family had a lot of their digital cameras,” Amee said laughing. “It wasn’t until the media started asking him questions that he realized what I meant. When I told him later, he just laughed.” The family is looking forward to May when Nick is expected to return to his Arvada home. By then, Alyson will be 15 weeks. Although Dylan is young, Amee said her son understands what Daddy is doing. “Dylan has a sword that he helps Daddy fight the bad guys with,” Amee said. Dylan brought the sword to show off to his daddy during the broadcast; a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sword tucked into the back of his shirt. “He knows that Daddy is fighting the bad guys in Iraq and trying to keep Dylan safe.”