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Capt. Ben Knoblet arrived home from Iraq in time to join his wife Angela just hours before the birth of their first child, Gabriel Cohen Knoblet. Angela is the daughter of Dennis and Cathy Persinger of Daniels. Ben is the son of Dr. Jerry and Mrs. Linda Knoblet of Beckley.

Chris Hancock
The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

It was a case of perfect timing all the way around.

U.S. Army Capt. Ben Knoblet had already headed out for his second tour of duty in Iraq last October when he learned his wife, Angela, was pregnant with their first child.

On April 24, he was eager to come home for a visit and requested an earlier flight from Atlanta, to Charleston.

“I just wanted to get home as soon as I could,” the 28-year-old serviceman said. “I was able to get out on a morning flight instead of having to wait for a 5:30 p.m. flight that day.”

When Knoblet’s mother picked him up at the airport in Charleston, she had some surprising news: Angela was in labor at Raleigh General Hospital.

“I went straight from Baghdad to the delivery room in 48 hours,” said the proud new dad. “It was unbelievable.”

For Angela, his arrival just hours before the birth of Gabriel Cohen Knoblet at 1:10 a.m. April 25 was more than she could have hoped for.

“He missed all of my pregnancy, except the last few hours. The doctor came in and moved the baby around in my tummy so Ben could feel him kick. He did, at least, get to see me pregnant, and it was great that he could be there to see Gabriel born,” she said.

Ben’s arrival was also a special moment for Angela’s doctor, midwife and the hospital staff, who all knew her husband was in Iraq.

“He arrived uniform and all,” Angela said. “The nurses were crying. I was crying. People were talking about it in the elevator. It was really something.”

When Ben saw her tears, he was afraid something was going wrong with the labor.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Ben said. “I thought I might walk in and hear somebody saying, ‘One, two, three, push.’ I was relieved when Angie told me she was crying just because she was happy to see me.”

Ben was there for about the last half of Angela’s 20-hour labor. Angela’s sister, Becky Bartlett, had attended childbirth classes with her and served as her coach.

“She did a great job getting me through it all,” Angela said. “I think she was the only person I wasn’t mean to while I was in labor. It was really good to have her there.”

Like father, like son, Gabriel’s timing was also perfect. The 8-pound, 10.6-ounce healthy baby boy was born exactly on his due date. His arrival also came one day before his father’s birthday and a week after Angela’s.

“We will celebrate a lot of life every April,” Angela said.

Both said a great sense of relief was their first emotion when Gabriel finally arrived.

“It was a long, painful labor for Angie. I wasn’t enjoying it. She certainly wasn’t enjoying it. I just felt so relieved when he popped out and looked pretty healthy at first glance,” Ben said.

The day-to-day responsibilities of motherhood have seemed quite natural for Angela, who has been wanting to become a mom for the last three years.

“He’s a really good baby. He sleeps through the night, and he eats well. It’s a lot of responsibility, and I’m tired a lot of the time, but other than the delivery, this has been a great experience,” she said.

Ben had only a two-week leave, so he was able to be with his wife and son the whole time. He left Thursday and doesn’t expect to be back in Beckley before October.

“I’m glad I got to spend all the time being a dad — not just waiting to be a dad.”

Both dread the long separation, but the Internet and lots of photographs, letters, phone calls and e-mails will keep them in touch.

“I’m leaving this little 8-pounder, and when I get back, he’ll be about 20 pounds and can do all kinds of things. I hate to miss out on all that he’s going to experience in the next few months,” Ben said.

His short stay, however, made the couple savor every moment of their time together.

“It makes you appreciate life and each other more,” Angela said. “We don’t take each other for granted.”

A Christian couple, the Knoblets have a strong sense of faith in God and believe in His perfect timing for the important events in their lives.

“Everything in our life is a Godsend,” Angela said. “The fact that Ben got home just when he did, and that we were able to be together when the baby came — it’s just something we really don’t take for granted.”

— E-mail: bdavis@register-herald.com

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