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Baby Has Adorable Reaction to Doll That Looks Like Deployed Dad: 'My Heart Melted,' Mom Says

People logo People 9/19/2018 Jason Duaine Hahn
a person sitting on a bench posing for the camera © Courtesy Deanna Briscoe

With her husband deployed more than 5,000 miles away, Deanna Briscoe has found a unique way to bring her 7-month-old son comfort as he waits for dad to return.

The weeks have been long ever since Deanna’s Army husband, Chase Briscoe, left for Poland on a nine-month deployment in May. Though the family will FaceTime and send texts to each other as much as they can, Deanna says Chase is having a hard time knowing he is missing many of his newborn son’s first milestones. And Nathan is missing his father as well.

“As soon as I gave birth, Nathan and Chase had such a unique bond — the first time Chase held him his eyes opened up so wide and he was just starring in awe, it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen!” Deanna, 23, of Fort Hood, Texas, tells PEOPLE. “Every night Chase would rock Nathan and it was the only way we could get him to sleep. He also loved when my husband would sing to him. It’s been a huge adjustment for Nathan since Chase deployed. He’s definitely a daddy’s boy.”

Because Nathan was so used to falling asleep in his father’s arms before the deployment, Deanna says he has had trouble falling asleep in Chase’s absence.

While trying to find something that would help Nathan go to sleep, Deanna remembered hearing about the “Daddy Doll,” a line of customizable toys that feature a picture of a family member on its front and a recording of their voice embedded inside.

“I had tried absolutely everything, and all I could figure out that had changed was that Chase wasn’t putting him to sleep each night,” she says. “That’s when I thought the Daddy Doll might help Nathan go to sleep.”

In July, Deanna recorded her son’s reaction to receiving the personalized doll, which shows Nathan beam with excitement as he reaches out for the doll, seemingly recognizing his dad’s face printed on the front. It was a heartwarming moment, and Deanna’s video quickly went viral, garnering more than 22,000 views on Facebook and dozens of comments.

“I wasn’t really surprised he had that reaction, because I’ve seen how much he loves his dad, but I thought it was absolutely adorable and my heart melted a little bit,” Deanna says. “I couldn’t wait to show Chase the video. I sent it to him and he was so shocked that Nathan had recognized him still. It made him feel really special.”

Now Deanna will play Chase’s voice recording inside the doll when Nathan lays down for bed or when he’s crying — and hearing her husband’s voice brings her some comfort, as well.

a group of people standing next to a person: Deanna, Chase and their son, Nathan © Provided by TIME Inc. Deanna, Chase and their son, Nathan

“He is such a great husband and father and he is so hard working. He’s my best friend and I’m so proud of everything he’s achieved so far,” Deanna says. “He’s the kind of person that would do anything for you no matter what. He’s not only Nathan’s hero, but he’s mine too.”

Chase isn’t set to return to Texas until February or March of next year. Deanna knows she isn’t the only spouse waiting for a loved one to come home, and she has words of encouragement for those families who are just joining the military.

“Just know that it does get easier. It’s always going to be hard. You will be lonely a lot of the time, but it will get easier,” she says. “My best advice is to make sure you spend all the time you have together as best as you can.”

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