This is what the media won't tell you about the Soldiers
Marines Save Iraqi Baby to Honor Fallen Medic
Routine Patrol Turned Into Mission to Help Sick Child
(Dec. 8) - The story of a group of Marines' quest to save a sick baby in war-torn Iraq gives some hope to humanity this holiday season.
At the center of the story is Navy medic Chris Walsh and the 1st Battalion 25th Marines. The Marines were patrolling the streets of Fallujah in June when they faced an enemy attack.
"An IED exploded immediately adjacent to Chris' vehicle, so they all piled out to chase the trigger man," said Capt. Sean Donovan.
But the Marines had a surprise encounter in their pursuit.
"And as they did so, a woman came from one of the houses calling to them that the baby was sick. So they stopped, and Chris came up and looked at the baby," Donovan said. "And this was baby Mariam, and it was immediately clear to him that this baby desperately needed care."
Baby Mariam was just 2 months old and suffering from a rare intestinal abnormality. Under the threat of another attack, Walsh had to make a quick decision.
"Right on the spot, the mission changed from the trigger man to the baby girl," Donovan said.
A routine military mission suddenly became a lifesaving mission for Walsh and those around him.
"The shared willingness to engage this mission was the bravery of the family in bringing her forward," Donovan said.
Visiting Under Cover of Darkness
For the next three months, Walsh and the team made house calls under the cloak of darkness into the dangerous city to help the baby.
They were trying to get baby Mariam stabilized, taking photographs, consulting experts, and trying to get her papers to leave the country for medical care.
Staff Sgt. Ed Ewing led the visits.
"We showed up at all different times of the night," Ewing said. "They never knew when we were coming. We did that purposely to protect us and protect their family."
As months went by, the unit continued its routine patrols. On Sept. 4, tragedy struck when one of their Humvees was hit once again by an IED.
This time three men in the unit were killed -- Lance Cpl. Eric Valdepenas; Cpl. Jared Shoemaker; and Walsh, baby Mariam's guardian angel.
For those who survived, saving baby Mariam became a eulogy to their fallen comrades.
"To honor Chris, to honor the other men that died in battalion, we had to go through with the mission and keep fighting," said Father Marc Bishop.
Eventually the Marines won their fight, and baby Mariam was granted permission to leave Iraq.
Dr. Rafael Pieretti from Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital performed the surgery, which took place in October.
"She's doing well," Pieretti said. "She's gained weight. She's socializing more. She has a different life."
On the eve of baby Mariam's arrival, Walsh's mother, Maureen, received a letter from Donovan, telling her the story of a life that was saved because of her son's big heart.
The letter from Donovan read in part: "Although he won't be visible, Chris will be very much on that patrol, the hope for Mariam's very tiny life having arisen from the charity and gallantry of your son."
Recently Maureen Walsh met baby Mariam.
"It made me feel like Chris was there," she said. "He wanted something like this. He wanted to make a difference in somebody's life.