DICKSON, Tenn. (WKRN) — “If your mom is playing this, you’ve been born, and I’m not there. I wish I could be there, but I can’t.”
That’s a message from a Columbia, Tennessee, father to his unborn son recorded a decade ago from war-torn Afghanistan.
Marine Lance Cpl. Andy Carpenter was on his second tour overseas in 2011. He was expected to miss the birth of his firstborn, and his wife Crissie Carpenter understood.
“It wasn’t going to be long after Landon was born that he would be coming home,” she said while sitting down in her Dickson home with News 2’s Alex Denis.
While Carpenter was mentally prepared to deliver their baby alone, she didn’t expect to raise their boy as a single mother.
“He was able to call me about two weeks before he was shot. He said, ‘I can’t really tell you what’s going on, but it’s not good over here.’ He was nervous. I could hear it in his voice,” recalled Carpenter.
At eight months pregnant, all Carpenter could do was wait. On Valentine’s Day, she received news her love had been injured and was in a hospital in Germany.
“Andy was shot in the neck, and I remember hearing that he was on a ventilator,” she said.
Five excruciating days later, “They put the phone up to him and I said my goodbyes. I wasn’t on the phone when they did it,” Carpenter said while wiping away tears, “I couldn’t be.”
Weeks later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
“I felt like it was a blessing through the storm, you know?” Carpenter remembered.
On the final video he sent, Andy can be heard saying, “Crissie, I love you. I’m sure it was tough and I’m sure you cried a lot, a looooot. But the good news is, you got through.”
Andy’s final message foreshadowed her future.
Pointing to a message printed on wood displayed on a shelf behind her Carpenter said, “If you can see the sign behind me – ‘It is what it is’. He used to say that all the time. It drove me insane,” she said with a laugh, “I can hear his voice now saying ‘it is what it is.”
What “it is” is a busy beautiful life with Landon who embodies his father.
“For him never to have met him, it’s so crazy that he still is so much like him,” she exclaimed.
The 10-year-old, anxious to show News 2’s Alex Denis his most prized possession, ran into the room carrying Andy’s military backpack with a list written by his father.
“It’s got all the places he’s been,” Landon said, “Parris Island. Afghanistan.”
“What do you think about your dad’s service?” asked Denis.
“I’m glad that he did do that because they’re stopping terrorist. It’s pretty amazing that he did that,” said Landon.
A father’s legacy still very much alive through the admiration of a son who would tell his father one thing if he could, “I would say, ‘I love you,'” Landon said with a smile, “Yea”.