HOLDEN – Sgt. Brett Johnson has been serving his country in Iraq since January, but he says the real hero in his family is his wife, Jessica, who has continued on at home without him while pregnant with his third child.
Johnson, 41, returned home from the war zone on Saturday to witness the birth of Rowan Kerry Johnson, his third son, which occurred at 1:52 p.m. on Tuesday.
“Jess did a lot of amazing things when I was gone,” the proud father said by phone Wednesday from the maternity ward at Eastern Maine Medical Center. “She sold our house [in Hudson] and bought a new one [in Holden], and she continued to work. She moved us when pregnant, and she took care of the [two] kids.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” he said of his wife, who is a registered emergency room nurse at the hospital she gave birth in.
Jessica Johnson, 34, sent her husband a pair of tiny red sneakers to let him know she was pregnant for the third time. Rowan joins Bryan, 12, and Ian, 7.
“I found out about two weeks after he left that I was pregnant,” she said Wednesday while her husband was visiting Rowan in the hospital nursery.
Brett Johnson is a U.S. Marine Corps reservist who, for the last two years, has served as a Maine Army National Guard soldier with Brewer-based B Company, 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Mountain Infantry. B Company was deployed in January to perform an 18-month security mission in Iraq.
The two-week trip home was planned to coincide with the birth, but no one knew until Tuesday that things would work out, Jessica said.
“It timed out perfectly,” she said. “It could not have been more perfect.” The couple has kept the long-distance marriage vibrant via e-mail.
John and Mary Johnson, Brett Johnson’s parents, split the year between Maine and Florida and usually by October are already kicking up their heels in the Sunshine State. This year, the trip south was delayed, John Johnson said.
“We stayed for his homecoming and the birth of the baby,” he said Wednesday. “Needless to say, we’re ecstatic.”
John Johnson, who retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant after 22 years of service, said that when he served, airmen and other soldiers didn’t get “maternity” leave.
“They’ve changed things since I was in,” he joked, adding that all soldiers deployed for more than a year typically get a two-week leave of absence. “Brett wanted his when the baby was due.”
There are no words that truly can describe the feelings he had when he first saw his wife on Saturday, Brett Johnson remembered, saying simply that he was filled with a “cornucopia of emotions.”
Jessica Johnson admitted she cried at the Bangor International Airport reunion.
After seeing his new home, which he describes as beautiful, and the birth of his perfectly healthy baby, Brett Johnson reiterated that his wife is the hero of his family.
“I think it’s better than I deserve,” he said. “She did a great job.”
The couple and Rowan left the hospital Wednesday afternoon. Until he returns to Iraq next week, Brett Johnson said he plans to “lay as low as possible and enjoy my wife and three sons.”