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UNSUNG HEROES: The Fallen Corpsman Who Took On A Special Mission To Save An Infant
In late June 2006, a routine insurgent patrol in Fallujah’s Anbar province turned into a different mission for Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Walsh.
A hidden bomb went off during the sweep and Walsh, along with the rest of his platoon, set off to find the triggerman by going door to door in the nearest village.
From one of the houses, a woman emerged carrying an infant, alerting the Marines that she had a sick baby.
The child, known as “baby Mariam,” was born with a rare intestinal abnormality, called bladder exstrophy, where her bladder had developed outside of her body.
Though he had served as an EMT in his hometown of St. Louis, Walsh had never seen anything like this. He and the division took photos to send back to their base to determine how serious the condition was, and what needed to be done to save her life.
They knew she would need the kind of treatment that wasn’t available in her small village. Walsh decided right then that his new mission was to save baby Mariam, and his platoon — the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment — vowed to help.
Each week when after dark, Walsh and a dozen Marines would drive Humvees within a mile of Mariam’s home, and walk there to treat a dangerous infection that could kill her.
According to the San Diego Tribune, Walsh told her family, who spoke no English but seemed to understand, “We're going to get her the help she needs.”
In the meantime, Capt. Sean Donovan, a doctor assigned to 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, attempted to find a way to get Mariam out of Fallujah for a life-saving surgery. He finally managed to make contact with St. Mary's Church in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, which helped Donovan connect with 16 companies that offered to pay for her trip.
Donovan then enlisted the help of Dr. Rafael Pieretti, a Venezuelan surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who specialized in the condition, and offered to perform the surgery pro-bono.
The only issue then was whether or not the team could keep Mariam alive long enough to make it to Massachusetts. She was one among thousands of Iraqis in need of transport and medical care.
Unfortunately, during another routine patrol on Sept. 4, Walsh’s Humvee encountered a roadside bomb that killed him and two other team members.
With their deployment nearly over, the remaining Marines decided the best tribute to their fallen comrades would be to ensure that baby Mariam survived.
That October, Mariam was flown to Boston.
When she and her grandparents — who went in her mother’s stead — were finally approved to go to the United States, Donovan sent a letter to Walsh's mother Maureen, who had no prior knowledge about the baby or her son’s role in saving her life.
Maureen got on a plane and flew to Boston, knowing she had to see Mariam.
“It made me feel like Chris was there,” she told ABC News. “He wanted something like this. He wanted to make a difference in somebody's life.”
The surgery was a success, and a malnourished Mariam gained two pounds shortly after recovering.
In the hospital, Maureen was able to hold Mariam, whose grandparents thanked her in Arabic for her son.
“There were too many coincidences for it to be coincidence,” she said. “Chris was waiting his whole life for something like this.”
An Air Force major drowned in a Caribbean Princess cruise ship pool Friday morning, the Broward Medical Examiner's Office said
Stephen Osakue, 37, worked for the Air Force as a research pharmacist, according to a statement by the Medical Examiner's Office on Monday. Osakue was based at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.
As the US sends 1,000 more troops to Middle East, the Pentagon is a rudderless ship caught in a storm
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.
At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.
Investigation shows Lt. Col. in charge of Corps' 1st Recon was fired for alleged 'misconduct' but has not been charged
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.