Religion & Beliefs

I Am Not Ashamed To Admit This Made Me Cry

I don’t know if it’s the so-called “holiday spirit” or what, but reading this made me all teary and ridiculous. From officer and orphan to father and son An American soldier's familiarity with a sick Iraqi boy grows into strong … Read More

By / December 25, 2007

I don’t know if it’s the so-called “holiday spirit” or what, but reading this made me all teary and ridiculous.

From officer and orphan to father and son An American soldier's familiarity with a sick Iraqi boy grows into strong familial ties

By Carrie Antlfinger | Associated Press December 25, 2007

MAUSTON, Wis. – Capt. Scott Southworth knew he'd face violence, political strife and blistering heat when he was deployed to one of Baghdad's most dangerous areas.


But he didn't expect Ala'a Eddeen.

Ala'a was 9 years old, strong of will but weak of body — he suffered from cerebral palsy and weighed just 55 pounds. He lived among about 20 kids with physical or mental disabilities at the Mother Teresa orphanage, under the care of nuns who preserved this small oasis in a dangerous place.

On Sept. 6, 2003, halfway through his 13-month deployment, Southworth and his military police unit paid a visit.

Ala'a spoke to the 31-year-old American in the limited English he had learned from the sisters. He recalled the bombs that struck government buildings across the Tigris River.

"Bomb-Bing! Bomb-Bing!" Ala'a said, raising and lowering his fist.

"I'm here now. You're fine," the captain said.

Over the next 10 months, the unit returned to the orphanage again and again. The soldiers would race kids in their wheelchairs, sit them in Humvees and help the sisters feed them.

To Southworth, Ala'a was like a little brother. But Ala'a — who had longed for a soldier to rescue him — secretly began referring to Southworth as "Baba," Arabic for "Daddy."

Then, around Christmas, a sister told Southworth that Ala'a was getting too big. He would have to move to a government-run facility within a year.

"Best-case scenario was that he would stare at a blank wall for the rest of his life," Southworth said.

To this day, he recalls the moment when he resolved that that would not happen.

"I'll adopt him," he said.

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