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Big life events came at Chief Hospital Corpsman Jacqueline Reyes and her family last month with a speed matched only by the joyousness of what occurred.
It all started Oct. 20, when Reyes went into labor a week early to welcome her and her husband J.D.’s daughter, Amelia, into the world at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, California, where Reyes is stationed.
But Reyes was supposed to get pinned and welcomed into the chiefs mess with the other selectees the following day, and she assumed Amelia’s early arrival would change those plans.
The day after giving birth, Reyes got a call from her sponsor, asking her if she wanted to get her anchors there at the hospital while she recovered.
“I said yes, because I was under the impression it would be just a couple of people,” she told Navy Times. “Something really quick and small.”
Reyes expected to perhaps don her uniform top and have her sponsors put on her cover while she laid in bed.
Instead, the hospital’s entire chiefs mess and some of her leadership—dozens of people—showed up for the pinning.
Reyes put on her maternity uniform and asked to enter the chiefs mess as her brothers and sisters lined the hospital hallway.
Two bells were rung, the whistle was sounded and Reyes walked the passageway, saluting with one hand while pushing baby Amelia along in her bassinet with the other — a day after giving birth.
Amelia was included because she had gone through chief’s season as well, J.D. Reyes noted.
The whole ceremony took about 15 minutes.
“It overwhelmed me with emotions,” Reyes said. “I never in a million years would have thought the chiefs mess would be out there and just ready for me to get pinned and be welcomed into the mess the way that they did.”
Reyes could have been wheeled down the hallway for the ceremony, but she opted to walk it herself.
“It wasn’t too bad,” she said. “My husband helped me get in my uniform…I was walking before we did the pinning, just back and forth to make sure I’m good to walk. Having the baby in the bassinet and being able to push her helped me keep my balance.”
Hospital spokesman Curtis Hill said he was “shocked” when Reyes walked down the hall, as everyone thought she would come out in a wheelchair.
“She was not required to do that,” he said.
Reyes and baby Amelia are now back home on maternity leave.
“This was absolutely something they did not have to do,” J.D. Reyes said of the dozens of chiefs who turned up for his wife’s pinning. “And the fact that they did go out of their way to do it, we’ve had people from literally all over the world sharing the story. We’re super grateful.”
“This is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my Navy career,” HMC Reyes said.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.