For families of members in the armed forces, tours of duty can mean months away from home. When a military spouse is deployed it can excruciating waiting to reunite. Inevitably, a lot can happen and change in those months that a soldier is gone. But what happens when a returning serviceman comes home to find out a life-changing secret that has been kept from him in his time away? That’s what happened to Navy sailor Chris Daugherty when he came home to discover something he’d never expected. Read on to find out the secret that would forever change this Navy man’s life!
U.S. Navy sailor Chris Daugherty was due to deploy in January 2016. It wouldn’t be his first tour abroad. Nor would it be the first time he’d have to spend a prolonged period away from his family. Daugherty was initially expecting to be at sea for five months.
However, months after setting sail, the Navy man would learn that his deployment would actually end up lasting longer than he’d first thought, but that wasn’t the only unexpected twist heading his way. Little did Chris know at the time, but he’d eventually come home to the shock of his life.
As respectable as it is, life as a military spouse isn’t always easy. And Chris Daugherty and his wife, Natasha, were no strangers to the sacrifices of that lifestyle. The young Temecula, California couple had three young children and it never got any easier when deployment time came around.
There were smiles amid the tears when Petty Officer Chris Daugherty’s whole family came to port to send him off when he deployed on the USS Vinson, heading to the waters off of the Korean Peninsula where he would work as a Navy cryptologic technician. Daugherty would spend his days deciphering codes and signals, but he’d have no clue as to something that was happening back home.
As is the case with many military spouses and army wives, it didn’t take long for Natasha Daugherty to feel the pangs of loneliness that are unique to missing your partner. It was only about a week after Chris had shipped out, though, when Natasha started subtly changing her ways.
The changes were small at first, but with each passing week, it became harder and harder to conceal the truth. As time passed, however, there was one person in particular back home to whom Natasha was EXTRA careful not to reveal her whole story.
With three children at home and her husband away in the Navy, Natasha Daugherty had her hands plenty full. While her first-born was old enough understand that he should keep quiet about the differences with his mother, it wasn’t as easy to keep everyone hush-hush.
The mother of three found it most difficult to keep up appearances of normalcy with her four-year-old. Since the family was able to speak with Chris on a regular basis, Natasha couldn’t help but be concerned that her little girl would mention something that would raise his suspicions.
Although she barely had a minute to spare, Natasha Daugherty was in turmoil over the dilemma of whether to tell her husband something that would inevitably have a HUGE impact and change both of their lives forever when he returned.
Chris was thousands of miles away from home and she knew to reveal the truth while he was so far away would just make him anxious and distracted. The situation was intensified by the fact that the family kept in touch on a regular basis. They would make video calls, speak on the phone and share photos online, but Natasha constantly worried that Chris would notice she was hiding something.
Natasha and Chris Daugherty had first met when they were both working in the Navy. At the time, Natasha was working as an IT systems technician and Chris was smitten. He couldn’t believe that he’d met such a beautiful, intelligent woman with whom he had so much in common.
The couple wed in 2011, and after years of marriage keeping something of such gravity from Chris was extremely difficult and unprecedented for Natasha. At one point soon after Chris had deployed, the 28-year-old Natasha had intended to come clean to her Navy husband, but ultimately she decided against it.
“I emailed him and I told him to call me as soon as he gets a chance but then I thought about it for a few minutes and I was like, ‘You know, this isn’t how I want to tell him – in an email,’” Natasha recalled.
Not only did Natasha want to conceal her big secret from her husband Chris, but she didn’t want their friends or extended family to find out either. It wouldn’t be long though until perceptive loved ones would notice what had transpired.
Circumstances far out of Chris and Natasha’s control were brewing on the opposite end of the Pacific Ocean. Far from Natasha, but nervewrackingly close to the position of Chris’s base, a sinister threat was growing rapidly and spiraling out of control.
Americans and the world could only hold their breath nervously as the government of North Korea began testing ballistic missiles over and over, with no restraint. They impacted over the Sea of Japan. What would happen to Chris and his unit?
To keep afloat, Natasha was back home working two jobs and taking care of three little kids while Chris was serving his duty for the country. For anyone else, it would have been easy to sink under all the pressure. Natasha had already made it thus far it, but it hadn’t been simple.
It wasn’t an easy time for Natasha and there were so many occasions when she desperately wanted to break the silence and let her husband know what was going on. She only had a week to go until Chris’ impending homecoming, when she received unexpected news that made her question everything.
After five grueling months, Chris called from his station to tell his loving wife Natasha that his tour had extended by an extra 30 days. The addition to his deployment had been made after North Korea began testing ballistic missiles.
As international tensions rose, so too did Natasha’s anticipations skyrocket. She was about to burst, and just tell Chris what she’d been keeping from him. Ultimately, though, she decided it would be best to hold on for another month and that she’d use all her strength to keep it under wraps until then.
Despite her adamant decision to wait until her husband was home to tell him what would inevitably be life-changing news, Natasha knew that if anything, God forbid, happened to Chris before she was able to, she’d never be able to forgive herself.
“As soon as we started having trouble with North Korea, I became worried,” she later told NBC. “He was telling me goodbye. At that point, I was extremely emotional. I wanted to tell him, I wanted to freak out,” said Natasha. “But I kept my calm and waited, just a little longer.”
Finally, the last long haul passed and the six long months of Chris’s deployment were over. The Navy man was at long last on the voyage home to jump back into the everyday reality of being a devoted family man.
The Daugherty’s children could barely contain themselves knowing they’d soon see their father, but Natasha wasn’t sure how he’d react when he realized just what she’d kept from him the whole time he was away. As Chris sailed toward the American West Coast, he had no idea that it wasn’t only hugs that would greet upon his return.
On June 23, 2017, Chris Daugherty’s whole family had made the journey to San Diego where his ship had docked. As he disembarked, he couldn’t help but burst into the biggest cheek-to-cheek smile when he spotted his loving family waiting for him.
Clad in mini sailor outfits, Chris’ two daughters and son excitedly rushed to hug and greet their uninformed father. As the overjoyed kids jumped and swarmed their dad, Natasha held back but Chris didn’t realize why until he got closer.
After the sweet reunion with his children, Chris headed over to Natasha. Subtly smiling, she was holding a large poster welcoming her spouse back from his maritime duties. He apparently didn’t realize just what the message on the poster meant at that time and proceeded to try to hug his wife.
As Chris reached out to embrace her, she stepped back and dropped the sign she’d been holding. At that moment, Chris stopped dead in his tracks. For a few seconds, Chris was frozen in shock until he was able to utter: “Is that real? Are you serious?”
Natasha greeted her husband Chris holding a sign that read, “Welcome Home Baby Daddy.” With three children between the two of them, the message made sense. But the placard was covering something unpredictable underneath that Chris could never have expected.
When Natasha dropped the placard she revealed a shirt that read “I am the present my daddy gave my mommy before he deployed,” under which was a VERY PREGNANT belly! Crowds gathered, but there wasn’t a dry eye around after what happened next.
Chris couldn’t believe his eyes. “It was a pretty awesome confusion going on here,” he said of that extraordinary moment. “I was looking at her, then poked it because I was not sure if she was playing a trick on me.”
Once Chris composed himself from the initial shock, the couple finally kissed and embraced, reveling in the joy of Chris’ long-awaited homecoming and the surprise of another child on the way. The moment was already bursting with emotion – and although it didn’t seem possible – there’s was something else that made the day EVEN MORE special.
As it turns out sailor Chris Daugherty’s joyous return home just about coincided with Father’s Day. He had dropped anchor just a few days after the annual Sunday celebration and couldn’t have received a better present to mark the occasion.
“I have three (kids) already now so a fourth will just add on to the excitement and craziness!” he said. The Daugherty family members rejoiced as the weight of months apart had lifted and they now had a tiny miracle to look forward to. Little did they know then, however, but they’d soon become famous! What’s more, Natasha had another surprise up her sleeve.
Although Natasha had initially wanted to keep her pregnancy from family and friends to lower the chances that someone would accidentally give the surprise away to Chris, her growing stomach eventually became apparent and she rallied them to maintain the happy secret.
It was one of those friends who came to the Navy homecoming and recorded a video of the touching family reunion. The video quickly became a sensation on Facebook and now has more than half a million views. Still, no one, and particularly Chris, could have guessed just how Natasha was able to conceal her growing secret for so long.
In her attempt to give her husband the surprise of his life, Natasha had implemented some pretty clever ways to hide her pregnancy. She tried to make it seem that nothing was out of the ordinary, and that meant thinking outside of the box.
Naturally, she had to keep sending Chris photos from home, both to keep him smiling while he was so far away, and to update him about their everyday lives. That meant she had to be extra careful — especially around the other children!
Natasha would inconspicuously hide her growing baby bump in photos she sent Chris while he was away. In one photo, she placed their toddler on her lap to hide her midsection. In another, she held a beer can (that she obviously didn’t drink) in front of her.
Her eldest had to be properly fooled. “I had to tell my four-year-old I was getting fat. Otherwise she would tell! Because she’s a blabbermouth,” she laughed as she explained just why she decided to make the good news a surprise. But that wasn’t all.
“I found out about a week after he left. I didn’t believe it,” Natasha, then 28 told ABC News. “I took the pregnancy test again and I was like, ‘Oh no way.’” At that point, Natasha was about eight weeks along.
She was so excited about the pregnancy and wanted to tell Chris the good news in an email. On second thought, however, she realized she’d prefer another way. “I emailed him back and said, ‘I just miss your voice.’ That’s when I decided I’m going to document it with weekly belly pictures for him so he wouldn’t miss it.” But that wasn’t all.
Admittedly keeping that information from her husband was one of the hardest things Natasha has ever done. She also knew that if she told her Navy husband, he would worry and be disappointed that he was missing out yet have no way to be there.
In addition, the Navy wife wanted to share all the fear and challenges that came with expecting a baby. Ultimately, though, she decided the surprise would be worth it. Although Chris had missed the first 7.5 months of the pregnancy, there was still ANOTHER surprise in store for the couple!
While Natasha had successfully managed to keep her pregnancy a secret from her Navy husband, she wagered she would have enough time in person with Chris before the baby’s birth for revealing yet another fantastic surprise to him face to face. Thankfully, she was right.
When Natasha had met Chris at the docks that day, she had revealed to him that she was pregnant, but he did not yet know one vital secret about the incoming arrival. Would he be having a son or a daughter?
It was plainly obvious to Natasha that one of the very first things that the family would do after Chris returned home was to have a gender reveal party. They gathered their friends and family together for the happy event.
With everyone waiting anxiously at their side, Natasha and Chris popped a bundle of balloons that revealed pink confetti! The couple was having another girl, and they were over the moon. Their fourth baby was due in August, which gave them about two months for something they desperately needed.
In the months after Chris returned the Daugherty family was able to fit some unforgettable quality time. Along with stocking up on diapers and completing some final touches to the nursery, the couple also fit in some adorable maternity shots.
Chris and Natasha were able to do some much-needed bonding with their three oldest kids before welcoming the fourth. It was the number one thing that Chris had dreamed of doing for all of his time away from home. But there was one big catch — and everybody knew it.
Despite his months of time enjoying himself playing and cuddling with his kids and watching as his new baby girl’s due date grew closer and closer, one difficult question lingered over Chris’s head, and worried the rest of his family.
They all knew Chris would get a deployment notice in the near future, but when? For how long? What events could happen in the world while he was away that could delay him even further? The family crossed their fingers and hoped with all they had that he wouldn’t miss the birth.
For those in the military, there’s always a chance of getting called up at a moment’s notice. However, Chris Daugherty hoped that wouldn’t be the case when the time came for his wife to give birth to their fourth child.
Luckily, it seemed that he could expect to be in the delivery room as his next deployment date was set for early 2018 and he would be able to be there for his fourth child’s birth in August 2017 to enjoy the miraculous experience before he shipped out again.
To the whole family’s delight, Chris indeed was present when, on September 2, 2017, Natasha finally gave birth to their fourth child. The pair named their new baby Anara Rose, who joined her 10-year-old brother, 4-year-old sister and 18-month-old sister.
“We love you so much! You have completed our family of six,” Chris wrote on Facebook after she was born. “Can’t wait to bring you home.” Now that the family was settling into life with the new little addition, their true feelings about the whole whirlwind of events became more clear.
In the end, both Chris and Natasha were glad that he found out the good news about the pregnancy in person. Despite the range of emotions that Natasha dealt with keeping the secret, ultimately she was happy Chris could be part of the process once he returned.
She was also content knowing her husband hadn’t been riddled with unsettled thoughts of not being with his family while he was away doing such focused work. What they both have said of the events, though, will bring tears to your eyes.
“It was an awesome surprise to find out that way. Finding out in email or over the phone, that’s easy, but since she saved it, it was special,” Chris said touchingly. And Natasha expressed similarly heart-warming sentiments about the whole occasion.
“It was difficult but totally worth it in the end,” Natasha told NBC. With that successful surprise behind the couple and their family, Natasha made waves when she openly spoke about whether she was planning any surprises for Chris’ next military deployment.
Before seaman Chris Daugherty was due to ship out again, the couple did an interview with CBS. “What surprises are you going to have next time?” correspondent Jamie Yuccas asked Natasha. In response, Natasha laughed and responded, “Nothing.” But only time will tell, right?
Actually, as well as the first surprise worked out for everyone, one seemed to be just enough. Although it wasn’t a surprise, the family again had to gear up when baby Anara Rose was just four months old and it came time for Chris to deploy yet again.
In early 2018, the U.S. Navy shipped out Chris for another four-month round to the western Pacific. This tour took him to the likes of Guam, the Philippines and Vietnam. He and Natasha had promised that this time around there would be no surprises, but he still longed to be home.
Having spent so much time away from his loved ones, Chris made a vow to put down electronics and spend more time face-to-face when he again returned home. About four months after it started, the tour was over he finally headed home unsure of whether his wife would really stick to what she said about no more surprises.
In April 2018, Chris Daugherty was once again happy to be reunited with his loving family. To everyone’s surprise, or not, there really were no surprises (at least that we know of) at his much anticipated homecoming this time around.
Of course, Chris did miss his the baby along with the rest of his family. And while his homecoming might not have made as big of a splash for the rest of us, his previous one won’t soon be forgotten for a good reason.
Soon after going viral, the video of the Navy husband being surprised by his pregnant wife made it from social media to the mass media. Outlets across the country caught wind of the beautiful story and wrote dozens of articles about them. They were also invited to endless interviews.
While the cycle of Navy deployment may not stop soon for Chris Daugherty, meanwhile, on the other side of the United States, another serviceman had a similar situation. The thing is, he knew his wife was pregnant. And there was a catch.
Unlike Chris Daugherty, Jon Keeney was well aware that his wife Megan was pregnant. The problem was, he was away on active duty in a far more volatile situation, with even less hope of being allowed to go home. The circumstances were dire.
In 2012, 26-year-old Keeney was serving in the 305th Military Police Unit of the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan. He had signed up for the Reserves six years before, completing a tour of duty in Iraq before volunteering to fight in Afghanistan. And while he was away, he found out the unthinkable.
Jon Keeney had found out the wonderful news about his wife Megan’s pregnancy just two brief days before he had left for duty. Now, he had even more lives back home in West Virginia that he was sworn to protect.
But while Jon was away, Megan received difficult news from her doctors. In her fifth month of pregnancy, she was told that her child had a heart defect, and that his blood flow was circulating incorrectly. It meant birth was going to be a very complicated and risky affair.
Although Jon was bound to duty, worry clouded his thoughts. Would he be able to get out of his service in Afghanistan, if only for a brief moment to be at his wife’s side as she delivered? And even if so, would his baby be alright?
To everyone’s great relief, Jon managed to secure leave in the last weeks of Megan’s pregnancy. But as he made his way back to America from the other side of the world, everything suddenly conspired against him. His flights got canceled!
As Jon Keeney undertook an exhausting journey and endless series of flights to get back to West Virginia from his military police base in Afghanistan, nothing seemed to be going smoothly. Several flights were delayed, making him even more anxious.
Then came the worst news: once his charter flight to the States from Germany was canceled, he was stranded there — for four whole days. Time was ticking, and he knew the news would only stress Megan out more. What would happen?
Jon’s father intervened, using his connections with US senators and representatives from West Virginia to try and intervene. It worked: Jon Keeney finally landed back home in West Virginia, and as it turned out, his arrival was not a moment too soon!
Two days after Jon had landed, his wife went into labor, endlessly grateful that her husband was right there by her side at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital. On June 7, 2012, baby Jaxon Lucas Keeney was born. But he had to be operated on — immediately.
Moments after his entry into the world, baby Jaxon had to be taken away into surgery to correct his heart problem. Few things could be more frightening for new parents to endure. But Megan and Jon Keeney were in luck.
Happily, after one week of procedures, the surgery was a total success, and the triumphant trio could return home together! That didn’t stop Megan and Jon from monitoring the baby at every possible moment. But thankfully, the prognosis was good: this military family was on the right track for a long life together.
Sources: NBC San Diego, The Today Show