What I will remember
By John Morell
It is likely that each of us arrived at the National Academy with different expectations of how our experience here would unfold. Many I believe had some idea of what they may encounter, others like me, were unsure of where this journey may lead and what would be remember most about our time at the Academy.
Building professional relationships and increasing our network of colleagues is certainly one of the cornerstones of this experience. I did not fully realize that our experience here would also result in deeper personal friendships.
These past seven weeks have allowed me to get to know my room mate, Alain Babin Sr., a lieutenant from the Round Rock, Texas Police Department. He is a great roommate. He hasn’t stayed up all night talking on his cell phone, nor written or highlighted in any of my personal books or asked me to do any of his papers for him. Al is a gentleman. He is generous in sharing his DVD’s and rides into town. He has even been courteous enough to wait until I am asleep before he starts snoring.
It has not been easy to get to know him as he has been gone each weekend to visit his son, a patient at Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. However, it is through our conversations about his son that I have come to know and respect Al. You see his son Alan Babin Jr., is a true hero and the source of the most rewarding and enriching experience I have had while at the Academy.
On March 31, 2003, one of the fiercest battles of the war took place just outside of Ah Samawah, Iraq. During the battle Alan Babin Jr., an army medic with the 82nd Airborne Division, left his position of cover to aid a wounded soldier and was himself gravely wounded. Alan sustained a through and through gunshot wound to the abdomen. The wound traversed from side to side and damaged many organs, destroying 90% of Alan’s stomach in the process.
Alan is still recovering and has endured over seventy (70) surgeries. It was only a few weeks ago that the surgeons at Walter Reed were able to reconstruct his stomach allowing Alan and to take in some broth and sip some juice. Just last week Alan ate solid food for the first time since he was wounded over two and a half years ago.
When Alan Sr., talks about his son I can see in his eyes how proud he is of Alan. I can also so see the pain he bears in seeing his son so injured. Alain and his wife Rosie have been by Alan’s side through it all, attending to his every need. The stress of his recovery has taken its toll on Alan’s body causing a paralyzing stroke. But his sprits have not been affected. Alan is sharp, alert and determined to recover.
Recently, I along with fellow 223 members, Damon Shields, John Bailey, Todd Stockburger, Lee Wollenberg and Jeffrey Stafford rode with Alain to Walter Reed Hospital to visit his son. I can not express in words the emotions I experienced. As we stood around Alan’s bed I looked up to see Todd Stockbuger’s eyes begin to water and I could not speak for fear that I would loose it. Nor will I soon forget the solemn looks on the faces of the others with us.
Damon Shields stepped up and presented Alan with a couple of baseball caps and several patches we had for him and became our spokesman. Damon very eloquently thanked Alan for his service to our country and conveyed to him how proud we all were. I am truly touched by what this young man did and what he has endured for me, for us and for our country. Alan is a true hero, not like the fake ones you see on T.V. He is a survivor.
I will remember many things about my time at the Academy. My visit with Alan Babin Jr. is, without exception, what I will remember most.
Alan Babin Jr. received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with “V” for valor for his actions at Ah Samawah. If you would like to know more about Alan’s story, access the internet and go to www3.caringbridge.org/tx/Alansangels and look for the link to the Washington Post story “Wounds of War.”
The following are other links for Alan:
CBS Alan Babin Story