Wineka column: Soldier comes home from Afghanistan to see triplets

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

CONCORD — Only a few weeks ago, 19-year-old Army PFC Chris Euart was in Afghanistan, fearing that his pending fatherhood didn’t rise to the level of his getting leave to come home.
“I had all but given up,” Euart says.
But his wife’s doctor, the Red Cross and the office of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr worked a minor miracle, and soon Euart’s brigade commander was signing off on his redeployment orders.
He was leaving Afghanistan for good and being reassigned — moves that would allow him to rush back to the States to be with his wife, Sarah.
Why the urgency and special treatment?
Sarah was having triplets.
Emily, Jason and Anthony Euart were born minutes apart on the afternoon of Oct. 24. A day later, around lunchtime, Chris pushed through the doors of the neonatal intensive care unit to streamers, balloons, American flags and a new family.
“I think he was a bit shocked,” says Amy Talbert, nurse manager for NICU & Lactation Services at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast’s Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital. “He was seeing his babies for the first time, and he also was having a coming-home party.”
Worn out from the travel, Chris embraced Sarah, then held Anthony first, while marveling at the size of Emily (5 pounds, 7 ounces) and the chubby cheeks and big hands of Jason.
“It was awesome,” he says.
Chris’ stay at home ends Friday, when he sets off by car to Fort Riley, Kan., his new assignment. He will not have to return to Afghanistan, and it’s possible that Sarah and the kids can join him in Kansas by next spring.
Soon after seeing his family, Chris decided to get his first tattoos. Now, permanently inscribed down his left arm, he has the names of Sarah, Emily, Jason and Anthony followed by Psalms 91:10-11.
Chris says the biblical passage is the blessing of safety for home and family.
There shall be no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
“This is how I like it,” Chris says, looking at his children lined up in the NICU with Emily in the middle. “The two boys protecting my little girl.”
The young couple — Sarah also is 19 — already are thinking about the days when all three will be driving or getting ready to go off to school.
They do not plan to have any more children. At least Chris doesn’t.
“This is it — ready-made,” he says. “You have instant oatmeal. I have instant family.”
It has been quite a year for the high school sweethearts who graduated from Rowan County’s Carson High in 2010, endured Chris’ basic training in Kentucky, married last December and found out this spring — just before Chris’ deployment to Afghanistan April 12 — that Sarah was pregnant.
“We didn’t know how pregnant,” Sarah says.
She worked at the Ben Franklin store in Kannapolis, where her father, Anthony Heafner, is manager, until she was five months along. While Chris has been gone, Sarah has been living with her parents on Cruse Circle near Salisbury.
Over 16 weeks of training at Fort Knox, Ky., Chris became a cavalry scout and then followed a dream by earning a spot in airborne training school at Fort Benning, Ga.
But after the first week, the medical staff released him from the school because of an injured left foot, which it determined would not bear the stress of jump landings.
So he joined a cavalry scout platoon of 27 men at Fort Riley, fabled home of the 1st Infantry Division — “The Big Red One.” It wasn’t until late April, when his platoon was in Afghanistan, that Sarah told him over the telephone to sit down.
“There are three,” she said.
“Say again,” Chris answered.
After three months of soldiering from the forward operating base, officers moved Chris back to work with “detainees of war,” which pleased Sarah because it took him “out of the direct line of fire,” she says.
Chris, the youngest guy in his platoon, says he would have preferred to continue with the FOB.
Meanwhile, Sarah learned she probably wasn’t going full term with the triplets, so efforts began on both sides of their world to get Chris home on emergency leave, though births back home generally don’t qualify.
Dr. Brittian Beaver requested through channels the father’s immediate presence, given that he thought it too dangerous for Sarah to wait much longer. The Red Cross also became involved, but the family credits Kyle Bridges, constituent advocate for Burr, for pulling the final string.
Beaver had scheduled an Oct. 24 Caesarean section for Sarah. Chris was on a plane out of Afghanistan the morning of Oct. 22 and telephoned Sarah that he was en route after he landed in Kuwait.
But the way home would prove circuitous. He spent most of that first travel day in Kuwait and the trip home directed him first to Fort Riley, where he had to check-in before getting his leave.
Sarah tried to persuade Beaver to move the delivery to Oct. 26, but after the physician explained the dangers of waiting, Sarah and Chris decided that the health risks to the babies and Sarah were too great.
So Chris missed the births by about 20 hours.
Emily is the oldest and biggest. Jason weighed 3 pounds, 12 ounces at birth; Anthony, 3 pounds, 2 ounces.
Unless you go way back in their families’ trees, the Euarts had no reason to expect twins, let alone triplets.
There have been no complications, though the triplets were six weeks early. The babies are out of their incubators, no longer needing oxygen and basically attached only to heart monitors. Emily might go home as soon as Monday, while the boys will be staying behind until they are bigger and stronger.
Sarah and Chris spend most of the day at the NICU, with Sarah providing as much breast milk as she can for the babies’ meals by bottle. But the new mom and dad are not complaining.
“We’ve been blessed,” Sarah says.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@