McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Air Force Base, N.J.—The symbol of our country is a woman, a mother, who would sacrifice anything for the sake of her children. This symbol is no accident.
Through a stroke of good timing and determination, two Airmen from the 153d Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, Wyoming, made Lady Liberty proud on the night of Sept. 10.
In an emergency delivery, a child was delivered by administrative specialists Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer N. Ballenger and Tech. Sgt. Shyloh A. Vallot, to a guest family from Afghanistan.
Wanting to help evacuate those in need from Afghanistan, Ballenger and Vallot volunteered for a temporary assignment as part of Operation Allies Welcome at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Air Force Base, New Jersey.
Operation Allies Welcome an ongoing military operation supporting vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked alongside us in Afghanistan for two decades.
Ballenger and Vallot were carrying on with their duties when they were suddenly alerted by one of the guests that there was a medical emergency nearby.
The guest turned out to be the expecting father. His family had left their home in Afghanistan and found himself in need of help.
Even though they did not speak the same language, he made his dilemma clear; his wife was pregnant, and they needed medical assistance right away.
However, there were only male doctors on staff in the area that night. Afghan custom dictates that female attendants must deliver children.
Neither Ballenger nor Vallot had any advanced medical training, but they knew what to do as mothers themselves.
Bringing along a 16-year-old Afghan boy to act as a translator, Ballenger and Vallot followed the man to his wife. They found her on the third floor of the building, seemingly a barracks wing of the base being used to temporarily house some of the guests.
The mother’s contractions had already begun; they had already reached one-and-a-half minutes apart.
Ballenger and Vallot rushed to the mother and rendered aid. Donning gloves and masks, both women tended to the mother as she struggled to deliver the child.
Holding the newborn, Ballenger ensured the baby was healthy and could breathe as she helped clear the baby’s airway. Her cries were a relief to everyone in the room that night.
“This is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said Ballenger. “These people trust us; they came here for safety, for stability, and a better life.”
She is alive, healthy, and now an American.
“It just makes you realize how lucky we are to have what we have,” said Vallot. “They want that so badly, they were willing to get on a flight to who knows where, and to come to an unfamiliar country, not even knowing the language, that’s how much they want this.”
“That is how much they trust us,” said Ballenger.
That night forged a unifying moment of peace, joy and goodwill between strangers.