The Washington Post

Whatever Happened To ... ... the wounded soldier?

In 2003, when her then-22-year-old son, Alan, was deployed, Rosie Babin turned the kitchen in the family's Round Rock, Tex., home into what a 2004 Washington Post Magazine story described as a "rear operations command center," on constant 82nd Airborne Division watch.

And when Alan returned home in 2004, after seven months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and 70 surgeries, the room became a staging center for a steady stream of reporters, clamoring to tell the unbelievable story of the young medic who had survived a gunshot that ripped through his stomach, then later overcame a stroke and meningitis.

Today, the Babin kitchen is the headquarters of Help Our Wounded, which Rosie started in 2009 to help wounded veterans and their families navigate the bureaucracy of securing financial, physical and mental support. The room is still a hub of comings and goings, but now Alan joins in, entering in his wheelchair to check his e-mail or make a sandwich. It's where he and his dad fill their water bottles before heading out on their tandem bike -- Alan in back, pedaling with his arms; Al in front, powered by the determination of his son. And it's where you can find a photo of Alan skiing in 2006 as part of the annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

"That was the eye-opener, when we were able to get on a lane with Alan and watch him ski," Rosie said. "It made us shift our focus from his disabilities to his abilities."

Since the Post article was published, Alan's health has improved dramatically. Once unable to lift a hairbrush, Alan now has the strength and coordination to bike with his arms, rock-climb (with a spotter) and hug his mom. "Cognitively ... he has good days and bad days," Rosie said. "On bad days, he's just not thinking so much like a 30-year-old. On good days, he beats us all at Trivial Pursuit." Alan's speech is slow, but he can make himself understood.

Her son's growing self-sufficiency gave Rosie, 50, the time to start the nonprofit advocating for veterans.

Leaving a fight before it's over is not in the Babin blood. Alan is now on the Texas Governor's Committee on People With Disabilities. His sister, Christy, who'd spent much of high school helping Alan, now plans to be a nurse.

Alan, who told The Post in 2004 that his goal for recovery was to walk again, has new priorities. "I don't want to say that I've given up on walking; I just know there are so many more fulfilling things," he said.

He still remembers very little of the day he was shot but has read accounts of his gruesome injuries: "If I can survive all that, what can't I do?"

READ THE ORIGINAL STORY: The wounds of war (Post, Dec. 19, 2004 )

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