By Ron Mott, NBC News correspondent
NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA – When a pregnant Krystle Burdis kissed her husband and sent him off to war earlier this year, she knew he wouldn't be around for the birth of their first child.
But there he was Thursday night, coaching her on, in uniform, on a big TV monitor a few feet from her bed though 6,300 miles away in Iraq.
Marine Corporal Craig Burdis said he expected to find out he was a dad by more conventional means when he left for the Middle East – a telephone call, maybe email, perhaps through Facebook.
But someone told him about Freedom Calls and he was hooked.
That's how he wound up face-to-face with his wife, seeing her every move, hearing her every grunt – and vice-versa-- while she labored for better than 90 minutes trying to push Loghan Robert into the world.
"I can't do it," Krystle cried between exhausting contractions.
"You're doing good, babe," he would pipe in. "Keep pushing."
This exchange between husband and wife – who became mom and dad about 8:30 in the evening – came compliments of a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization, which turns donations into satellite time so men and women in uniform – deployed all over the world – can keep in touch with family.
"To have my husband here, not personally here, but right next to me, supporting me on through it, was amazing," Krystle said.
And when a nurse held the baby boy's face up to the camera for Craig to see, his glowing smile said everything and more that words couldn't express.
Freedom Calls, run out of a modest home office, is essentially a two-person operation impacting a growing number of lives. John Harlow, a former Wall Street executive, is the founder and executive director of Freedom Calls, the tech guru, if you will. Kathryn Hudacek, director of development, is the fundraiser, a most important function – if not the most important – for any charity. Their passion for contributing to the greater good – especially for and behalf of those who risk their lives in service to the country – is the driving force behind Freedom Calls. It also is driving them together in more personal ways. They are engaged to be married.
"I was watching the news one night, and there was a story about a national guardsman who I heard was negotiating with his telephone company because he had run up a $7,000 telephone bill just from calling his family from the frontlines. This seemed to me to be outrageous that our soldiers should be commercially exploited when their families are making a sacrifice for the rest of us."
That was the genesis for Freedom Calls back in 2003, Harlow said. Today, the objective is overcoming economic challenges that are threatening to disconnect military families while the nation remains at war. The service – which utilizes satellites to allow deployed troops to attend weddings, christenings, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, you name it – is expensive, more than $1,000 a day.
Two of the organization's principal supporters last year – Chrysler and AIG – ran into highly publicized financial storms of their own.
"I'm not going to take this bad economy as an excuse for not finding support for Freedom Calls," Hudacek said. "I know it's out there. I know people can give -- corporations and individuals. And I'm knocking down doors and asking."
Back in North Carolina, everything the young Burdis family asked for came to pass. Loghan Robert arrived with 10 fingers, 10 toes and a healthy set of lungs. A Marine got a chance to be there for the life-changing event, even though he never set foot in the delivery room. And a mom got to say "I love you" to the man in her life, while thanking him for the 7-pound, 11-ounce gift of her life.
What the Burdis family didn't ask for was joy. It just showed up on its own, with a little help from Freedom Calls.