VIRGINIA BEACH – On the same day as her promotion to Personnel Specialist Chief, a Lakehurst sailor earned another responsibility. While stationed with the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, she had her baby on the day of the Fiscal 21 Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Final Night.
Personnel Specialist Chief Veronica Guadalupe Foley, a selected chief who initiated with class 127 said, “I’ve always known I’ve wanted to make Chief but never did I imagine going through the season while being pregnant, much less delivering on the last day of training right before my pinning.”
“The day I went into labor was a day of mixed emotions. I was nervous because my baby was coming out three weeks earlier than expected, I was excited to finally meet her, and I was saddened because I knew I would not be able to stand next to my class 127 brothers and sisters and be a part of the Pinning Ceremony with them,” Foley said.
Foley added, “I could not however take away from the pure joy I felt when I saw her for the first time,” said Foley. “Terrifying? Yes. Worth all the madness involved in getting a child into the world? Most definitely. I felt her kicks, watched her grow and sacrificed my own comfort in order to bring her into the world.”
Now that her new daughter, Fiona Margaret Mary Foley had arrived, “I couldn’t keep my eyes off her, I just wanted to stare and study every feature of hers and memorize the details,” she added.
With a sense of relief and adoration, Foley felt a great sense of accomplishment. “I had successfully undergone the season despite the challenge that was my pregnancy,” she said.
“When I got told that I had made chief, that I’d gotten selected, the first thing I said to myself and those around me was: ‘Don’t let this distract you,’ I would not let my pregnancy define me. I refused to be limited as much as possible, and I knew I definitely wanted this. So, I pushed myself. Within my pregnancy limitations of course,” Foley added.
Foley said, “I know I didn’t cut corners,” said Foley. “I definitely did everything that I absolutely could. Anyone could see that my heart was in it, the passion was there, and that I loved it. That’s what it’s really all about.”
This Chief season however was unlike any other and presented its own challenges to the Chief’s going through the initiation process. “The season was a different experience overall. Not only because of my pregnancy, but also because of the current pandemic we are facing.”
She said “for our safety and the safety of others social distancing was heavily implemented. For example, groups were limited to 10 people, and most physical training sessions were over Zoom.”
“It was actually explained to me that if I had to go through a season while being pregnant, this one was the one, because of COVID-19 and the extensive safety precautions in place,” Foley added.
Along with mitigating COVID-19 transmission, additional efforts were made to ensure a safe environment throughout Foley’s pregnancy.
“Being aware of her situation, we made sure not to put any unnecessary stress on her or the baby,” said Logistics Specialist Senior Chief Joel G. Williams who is the Chief Petty Officer initiation season leader.
“While making sure we abided by the guidelines provided by medical, her training remained exactly the same as any of the other Chief Selects. To help her though she’d be allowed to sit when she felt like she needed to, and more time was given to her to complete some of the tasks given,” he said.
Chief Season involves a lot of mental rigor of its inductees which benefits from a support system, especially while carrying a child.
Foley said, as soon as she found that she had picked up Chief that evening, “the kids were still awake and my husband had told them. Hey, you know, mom did it. Things are going to be a little different and we need to be there for her to help through this.”
She said, “so, with my family to kind of help me, and still have fun and partake with me I had them do some of the things with me.”
“My oldest for example, would wake up with me on my physical training mornings, and we would go work out or walk and he would do some singing and memorizations with me,” Foley noted.
“Throughout the entire initiation I felt the support of the other selects and the Chief’s Mess. They showed understanding and genuinely cared for me. From simply asking me how I’m doing to making sure I was taking breaks and sitting down at appropriate times,” Foley said.
“She was a valuable part of the team,” said Yeoman Chief Janet Paredes, class 127 initiate. “She was a mental motivation to me and others on the team. Watching her go through the season while being far along in her pregnancy and attitude helped me in the moments where I stumbled or fell.”
As Foley’s pregnancy did not allow her to be present on the actual day of her Chief Pinning, she was surprised instead.
Foley remarked, it was really, really something to see. I walked out of my front door and straight out looking on the lawn I just saw khakis, and anchors, and people out there. Master Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, and chiefs all on my front yard. I heard Senior Chief Joel Williams say, ‘Attention to the Chief’s Creed,’ and then all Chiefs present snapping to attention as the creed was read.”
“I saw my husband and my mom walk up with my anchors and I couldn’t believe what was happening. And then Legalman Chief Serena Williams, my sponsor, came up with my cover. I will cherish this moment forever,” she added.
Foley gave some advice for any future Chief going through the season while pregnant. “I would say do it. Stay within your means and limitations, but definitely perform to the fullest, only you know your body and know your limits.”
“If you feel like you can do it, then give it your best. The season is not something you ever want to shortchange yourself. It’s an experience that you’ll never get back and you’ll hear that a lot. So, make is yours,” she asked.