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Wife wants Marine home after preemie birth

October 20, 2009 3:42:27 PM PDT
He volunteered to become a Marine and fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, his family on Long Island is fighting to get him back. The reason: his baby daughter was born two weeks ago, two months premature. His wife wants him back. But the military says no way.

Cristal Wagenhauser spends every minute of every day anguishing over her newborn baby. Her two burning questions are will she survive? And if not, will her husband get home in time? That's a lot for any new mom to handle.

The drama began when Cristal gave birth two months early. Baby Madison was in critical condition, weighing in at just 2 pounds, 11 ounces. Her husband, Corporal Keith Wagenhouser, tried to get home to Long Island, but the military refused to grant him leave.

"He needs to be here," she said. "He needs to hold her. He needs to get to know her, and she needs to get to know him."

Wagenhauser is assigned to an overseas unit ready to back up troops in Middle East. Capt Clark Carpenter says of 100 emergency requests, only 11 Marines have been sent home for terminal illness or death. In this case, he states the child's prognosis is excellent, so it does not meet criteria for emergency leave.

If the baby's condition deteriorates, it would take Wagenhauser a week to get home. At that point, it would be too late.

"He'd be devastated," she said.

The baby's condition has stabilized at Stony Brook University Medical Center, but doctors say anything can happen. Wagenhauser is holding onto hope.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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