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Baby is assured she'll learn all about her dad

Army Sgt. Dooley died June 8 in combat in Iraq

Friday, October 17, 2003

By Sally Kalson, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Two-day-old Shea Micheal Dooley scrunched up her face, gave out a baby grunt and then settled serenely in her mother's arms like a tiny Buddha, impervious to the cameras clicking and whirring in her direction.

Shea Micheal Dooley wears a T-shirt with her father's image. (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)
Click photo for larger image.


It was the baby's first news conference, and she was dressed for the occasion in a T-shirt that read, "My Daddy, My Hero."

Her father wasn't there to witness the scene. Army Sgt. Micheal Dooley died on June 8 in combat in Iraq. He was 23 years old. His wife, Christine Marie Dooley, was five months pregnant at the time with their first child.

The baby was born Tuesday at 3:17 a.m., weighing 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measuring 19 1/2 inches long. According to her mother, she has her father's ears and chin and her mom's nose.

Throughout her nine hours of labor, Christine Dooley had two comforting companions: Her mother, Jean Garard of Murrysville, never left her side; and on the pillow above her shoulder was a stuffed Koala bear dressed in scrubs, a gift her husband gave her before he shipped out in case he wasn't able to attend the birth.

Asked yesterday what kind of thoughts and feelings she experienced during childbirth, Dooley, 22, gave the universal answer.

"Pain," she said with a wry laugh. "I was not thinking about anything else but the pain."

Her eyes misted over for a few seconds.

"It's just been hard," she said, gazing at the baby. "She's been with me the whole time, going through everything with me."

Then she straightened her shoulders. "Most of the time I'm doing fine."

Shea was the name picked by her father, who chose it from a list her mother compiled.

"We thought we were having a boy," Christine Dooley said. "I sent Micheal a list and that's what he picked. His friends told me that as soon as he saw it, he knew. Luckily, it's a name that can go either way, for a boy or girl."

Mother and daughter were pronounced healthy and discharged yesterday from Forbes Regional Hospital. They will reside with Christine's parents, who are building an addition to their Murrysville home for them. The new space will contain two bedrooms, a bathroom and study area -- Christine hopes to resume college soon and become a teacher.

Micheal Dooley was killed along the Syria-Iraq border, ambushed by three men who pulled up to his checkpoint and asked for help. He will never know his daughter, but if Christine Dooley has her way, his daughter will know him.

"I will tell her all about him," she said. "There will always be pictures around. I already started a journal, and I asked his family and friends to write her letters about him for a scrapbook."

The couple had hoped to have more children, she said.

"I wanted two kids and he wanted three. I told him we'd compromise; I'd have twins the second time so it would only be one pregnancy."

Christine Dooley knows she's not the only one facing the future without the man she loves.

"There are other wives of fallen soldiers," she said. "We try to stick together and support each other. It helps. More than anyone else, they know what I'm going through."

With that in mind, mother and daughter will attend a walk tomorrow from Connellsville to Uniontown and back to benefit the family of Eric Hull. An Army reservist from Uniontown who was killed in August when the vehicle he was driving hit a land mine in Iraq, Hull left a wife, Missy; a daughter, Mia, 2; and a son, Dominic, 1.

Riding in her baby carriage, Shea Micheal Dooley will be wearing the T-shirt in honor of her dad.


Sally Kalson can be reached at skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610.

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