Army Sergeant Francois Clerfe is stationed in Iraq, but being a world away didn’t stop him from meeting his newborn daughter, Julia on New Year’s morning. He started the journey from Iraq to Monterey, California on December 23 and it was quite the trek. Flight to Kuwait, connections in Turkey and Germany, then switching planes in Baltimore, Atlanta, Louisiana, Dallas and Phoenix finally got home to Monterey on December 31.

If you weren’t counting, that’s a full eight days of travel with nearly 8,000 miles between the two locations. We’re sure his wife, Natallia Svistunova, was anxiously awaiting his arrival during labor. The Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula posted their congratulations to their first baby of 2018.

And it was like his little girl knew she needed to wait for daddy to make it just in time. Baby Julia made her entrance into the world the very next morning at 9:53 p.m. According to TODAY, dad gets to finish out his 30-day leave soaking up time bonding with his newborn baby and supporting mama. From there, he gets 10 more days with his family as part of the military paternity leave policy.

“I am very grateful that she waited for me as well as grateful to those who played a part in making this possible,” Clerfe said to TODAY. Their little one truly was a new year gift.

Being a military family takes strength, patience and perseverance—kind of similar to what it takes to raise a family. Sometimes one parent is gone for an extended period of time a world away and not every family gets the chance to be together during labor.

As far as awaiting where his next orders will take him, he’s not sure just yet. “One can always hope but faith will always prevail through it all. One’s life path challenges are keys to your strengths, motivation, and growth,” he told TODAY. That positivity and faith is sure to take him far in parenthood. Welcome to the word, Julia!