(This is a continuing story still in progress)
Alan Richard Babin, Jr. was born in 1980 at Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio, Texas. When he was five years old his parents moved to Bakersfield, California. His only sibling, sister, Christy, was born after Alan had started to elementary school and he progressed on through middle school while they lived in Bakersfield. In August 1994 the Babin family moved to Round Rock, Texas where Alan attended Round Rock High School. He ran Cross Country in school sports, participated in city league baseball, and trained in karate. Following High School, he had employment in several local businesses and was working at Blockbuster Video on September 11, 2001. The impact of 9-11 motivated Alan to go down to the recruiting office the next month seeking to enlist. He wanted to do his part in the war on terrorism and he had determined to do it as a medic in the airborne. Alan held off in signing up until there was an opening for the training courses that he needed and it was March 2002 before he reported to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for 8 weeks Basic Training. That was followed by 17 weeks at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas training to be an Army Medic (Health Care Specialist). Next, he completed his initial training with 3 weeks in the Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. In November 2002, his father, Alain, made the trip to Fort Benning, took a photo of Alan with all his equipment moving out to make his 5th and qualifying parachute jump, then, in the graduation ceremony on Fryar Field immediately after the jump, proudly pinned on his sons parachutist badge.
In November 2002, Alan Babin reported in at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was assigned to the Medical Platoon of Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. Alan worked sick call, administered shots, provided medical coverage on the Drop Zones for parachute operations and served on all the other work details normal for the medics at Fort Bragg.
In January 2003 the 82nd Division was alerted for movement. The divisions lead elements flew into Kuwait on February 14th. But, it was not until March 29th that all elements had closed in country, and by that time, the war had already started. PFC Babin was attached to Company A as the Medic for 3rd Platoon. Three days after they had moved into Iraq, on the morning of March 31st, 3rd Platoon came under fire near the Euphrates River bridge at As Samawah. While moving to aid a wounded soldier, Alan was himself wounded during that engagement and as a result of his actions that morning, some of which are detailed in the citation accompanying; he was later awarded the Bronze Star with V-device together with the Purple Heart.
The Bronze Star
With V Device
Date of action: 29 March 2003
PFC Alan Babin, HHC, 1st Bn, 325th Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, March 31, 2003, for valor. When attached as the medic for 3rd Platoon, Company A, his platoon was ordered to establish a blocking position 500 meters from a bridge on the Euphrates River in As Samawah, Iraq. At 3:30AM on the morning of March 31st, the platoon began to receive heavy mortar, RPG, and small arms fire. PFC Babin was assisting the Platoon Sergeant when, around 7AM, PFC Heit, the Assistant Gunner for the platoons machine gun was wounded by small arms fire and lay incapacitated, exposed in an open field. While the platoon was still receiving effective fire and with no regard for his own personal safety, PFC Babin immediately left his covered position and crossed over 20 meters of open ground, exposing himself to fire, to reach the wounded soldier. Moving through enemy fire, he had moved within five meters of PFC Heit when he was hit by small arms fire. He made every attempt to reach PFC Heit and stopped only when he was incapacitated. Alan Babins valorous actions inspired all .
It was over three hours before Alan was finally evacuated. He was flown out on a Blackhawk helicopter to Talil Air Base in Kuwait where he would undergo his initial surgery. A bullet had hit in a seam of his body armor, entered his right side, passed through the abdomen doing massive damage and exited the left side. He lost his spleen, 90 percent of his stomach, most of the intestines, and part of the pancreas. He was moved onto the hospital ship, Comfort, in the Persian Gulf, but; then had to stay there for three weeks because the doctors believed he could not survive a Medevac flight due to the severity of his wounds and to complications that were worsening. To keep him alive, the medics had pumped epinephrine into him to keep his blood pressure up and that resulted in the dangerous side effect of developing gangrene in his arms, hips and groin. Necrosis of a massive amount of tissue unrelated to the gunshot wound was the result. He had been on a ventilator since he had first received medical treatment, and while on the Comfort a tracheotomy was done.
On April 24th PFC Babin was flown to Landstuhl, Germany where he underwent another two days of surgery. Doctor Kirby, Alans surgeon at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, called and told the Babins, that the wounds were devastating, it was a miracle that he had survived the wounding, another miracle each time that he survived his many surgeries, that he had seen similar cases and was amazed that Alan was still alive, and that if the people in the field and in the Field Hospital had not taken the exact steps to save his life that they had, that he would not be treating him today.
Alan Babin was then placed on a Medevac flight back to the United States. The flight went into Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland and Alan arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C. on April 26th. The next day, April 27th, Alans parents, Alain and Rosalinda Rosie Babin, arrived in Washington, D.C., and they were finally reunited once again. They had flown at their own expense, being unwilling to wait for arrangements to be made for their official government travel. Each day they would sit in the room and watch as doctors and nurses attended Alan and it bothered them to do nothing but watch. One day a doctor came in, but couldnt find a nurse, so the Babins volunteered to help. They began by bathing him and changing his dressings. Later as they learned more about the drains and vacuums hooked up all over his body, they began working those also. Alan naturally responded well to his parents attention and the Walter Reed staff enthusiastically welcomed their help. After 2-1/2 months, Alain reluctantly returned home to resume working and to look after their 16 year-old daughter, Christy, but; Rosie would remain there participating in Alans care for the next seven months in Walter Reed, all of which would be in the Intensive Care Unit. For months, he underwent frequent procedures cleaning and draining his abdomen before the bullet wounds had closed and healed. Alan suffered a major setback on May 10, 2003 when he developed bacterial meningitis and had a stroke that impaired his right side movement. Since then, rehabilitation effort has also had to be devoted to restoring the mobility lost from the stroke.
Meanwhile, back in Austin, on May 30, 2003, Christy, on behalf of her brother participated in a public ceremony, hosted by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, in the Texas State Cemetery marking the issue of the Purple Heart Stamp by the U.S. Postal Service. The severity of Alans condition became widely known in the community. In anticipation of his eventual need to be cared for at home, the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin built a 400 sq ft addition to the Babins house in Round Rock that was designed especially for Alans needs. That construction, entirely donated by the builders, was completed in the Fall.
On October 10, 2003, inpatient Alan Babin was promoted to Corporal. On November 16th, he was well enough to leave intensive care in Walter Reed and be transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He had endured more than 70 surgeries, fought countless infections and had been bedridden for nearly 8 months. Alan remained inpatient for another month in the hospital at San Antonio until December 24, 2003 when he was placed in the Texas Neuro Rehab Center in South Austin. He was not yet home, but; on Christmas Eve he was finally getting close.
Since the Summer of 2004, he has been able to spend Thursday through Sunday weekends at home, but only because of the high level of competency of his family in caring for him and that was made possible only because of the wonderful room created for him by the Home Builders Association. He remains inpatient, each Monday through Thursday, receiving treatment at the Neuro Rehab Center. Mother, Rosie spends each day with Alan in the Rehab Center as well as being with him constantly during his days at home. Father and sister spend much time with Alan when he is at home, but otherwise continue near normal schedules. Alain is a Lieutenant in the Round Rock Police Department, and Christy is a senior at Round Rock High School. She is this years Student Body President, she is in the National Honor Society, is in the top ten percent of her class, and during the season is on the varsity cross country and softball teams.
At this writing the tracheotomy remains open and Alan Babin is still unable to speak. He is still being fed by a tube directly into his intestines. He is still months away from being strong enough to withstand surgery to reconnect the organs of his digestive tract that will enable him to consume food and eliminate waste normally. With assistance he can get up and then stand unaided, but is still unable to walk. He has a positive attitude, participates enthusiastically in his physical therapy, demonstrates good humor, and enjoys visits especially from veteran airborne medics. He has the advantage of being helped every step of the way by an incredibly supportive and loving family. This story remains to be continued …but, if you want to know how Alan is doing now, just click on this link.
Update: December 2005
Alan Babin has made gradual but steady progress throughout the fourteen months since his original article appeared in PATRIOT BULLETIN and he has just now passed the greatest milestone that remained for him on the road to recovery, major reconstructive surgery of his digestive organs.
During the intervening months his tracheotomy incision was closed and he slowly regained his ability to speak. He very gradually regained weight and strength and recovered some limited mobility. Finally, it was determined that he had reached the degree of conditioning necessary to undergo surgery and so Alan, accompanied by Rosie, departed Round Rock on September 26th, arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center the next day and started undergoing pre-op lab tests and exams. On October 4, 2005, Alan endured the very difficult but successful surgery with Doctor Paul White in charge of the surgical team. He spent the next month in Walter Reed, mostly in recovery in Intensive Care, and gradually introduced his newly reconnected digestive system to functioning once again.
After another five weeks of rehab in the Spinal Cord Injury Center in San Antonio, Alan Babin returned home to Round Rock to stay. He was released just in time to be at home again with his family for the Christmas Holidays and from all reports the success of this latest step on his long road to recovery has continued to amaze everyone.
There have been complications and many complex issues that had to be dealt with at each stage in Alan Babins continuing medical odyssey that we make no attempt to include here. You may keep up to date by checking the daily messages that Rosie writes and posts on the website alansangels, and you can go read for yourself the many reports of the difficult times of his surgery and intensive care by clicking on the journal.