(CNN) -- Asbai Ramirez had toiled for months as a U.S. soldier in Iraq. But it was his 7,000-mile trip home -- racing against the clock to his wife's bedside, for the birth of their baby -- that he described Monday as "pretty intense."
The Army specialist told HLN's Vinnie Politan that the tight timetable and sheer distance led him to believe that his chances were slim of joining wife Ashleigh Ramirez in Fort Polk, Louisiana, before their child was born.
"I didn't really have much hope about making it back," Ramirez said.
First, there was the matter of leaving Iraq. Ramirez said Monday that his unit commanders "sent me back as soon as they could."
On the baby's due date, he was finally back in the United States -- but not with his wife. Instead, he was in Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where he had to take a few mandatory classes.
But the baby was still holding out. On Thanksgiving morning, Ramirez said he boarded a flight to Alexandria, Louisiana, then quickly hopped on the road -- still about one hour, 15 minutes from the base in the western part of the state.
"I got into a car and pretty much flew down there," Ramirez said from Fort Polk. "I made it just in the nick of time."
Specifically, the soldier said he burst into the hospital room about 30 minutes before his son, Jason, made his own grand appearance.
Ramirez said that, throughout the process, he'd been in regular contact with Ashleigh. But talking online and by phone didn't compare to being with his growing family in person, especially with baby Jason in his arms.
"He's doing fantastic," the soldier said of his son. "I couldn't ask for a better gift than to have him healthy and here with me."