We all are pretty aware of the kind, compassionate nature of our Troops, even in the midst of a warzone. Here, as well as on other Blogs, endless stories of the generosity of kindness exhibited by our Troops, towards the Iraqi people have been told over and over again. When I saw this story, I knew right away it was one our readers would be interested it. How did I know that? I know how it affected me, how it filled me with pride and gratitude to have such loving and giving people serving our Country. This is a story about a young US Soldier and a young autistic and hyperactive Iraqi boy, whom they call Ben. This is a story that will tug on your heart strings, like it did mine.
Ben is an 8 year old Iraqi boy, whom Iraqi police found wandering alone through deserted streets in the industrial section of Adhamiyah on October 1st. Ben had no sort of identification and when asked what his name was, or where he lived, he didn’t respond. Concerned about his safety, the police officers who found him, brought him to th district police station, which was in the same building as the Adhamiyah Joint Security Station in eastern Baghdad.
That’s when Captain William Chastain, who commands US forces at the JSS saw Ben. Ben was dirty and thin and they had no idea how long he’d been wandering the streets alone. Capt. Chastain told Spc. Tyler Ratliff, a medic with Headquarters Troop, 3rd “Saber” Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment to give Ben a medical screening. Since that day, Ben will hardly leave Ratliff’s sight. Ratliff immedatly became the primary guardian for this 8 year old autistic and hyperactive little boy.
Keeping Ben entertained and out of the typical 8 year old mischief, is a full-time job, in and of itself. Ben is full of boundless energy, sleeping only a few hours a day, yet he still continues “bouncing off the walls.” It’s nothing for the Troops at the JSS to hear, “Ben, don’t touch that,” as Ben makes his rounds and tinkers with anything that catches his eye. That might be an expensive digital camera, or any other number of things you’d find in the JSS.
“I’ve basically just been babysitting him,” said Ratliff.
Babysitting Ben, might be keeping him entertained with soccer balls, or with balloons made form surgical gloves. Of course, Ratliff has to keep a constant eye on Ben, to ensure that he doesn’t get himself into something that might harm him. Ben, who mostly communicates in a series of yips and yaps is starting to come out of his shell, since he’s been under Ratliff’s care. Ratliff has gotten him where he’ll now ask for food and water if that’s what he’s wanting.
“The first night he was here, he didn’t speak a word, but he is a lot more vocal now,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff has no children of his own, so caring for this energetic pint-sized bundle has been a challenge. Despite his handicaps, 8 year old Ben manages to keep Ratliff on his toes, pretty much 24/7.
“He’ll sleep for two or three hours at a time. Then he wakes up and tries to make a break for it,” he said.
As Ratliff continues to watch over his charge, the Iraqi police have been busy attempting to locate Ben’s parents. They have distributed Ben’s picture to police officers who patrol the area where Ben was found. They show his photo to people every day, in hopes that someone will recognize Ben and be able to give them any kind of clue to his identity.
Soldiers stationed at the JSS, have found that having Ben with them, is a welcome change. Spc. Howard Leleux enjoys watching the boys antics, which remind him f some of the things his own 6 year old son does.
“It’s a big morale boost, honestly,” Leleux said. “I have a six-year old of my own and some of the things Ben des remind me of him.”
Captain Chastain jokes that with Ben at the JSS, they now operate a day care center. Despite the jokes, Chastain is quick to point out how impressed he is with Ratliff and his assumption of responsibility for Ben.
“Ratliff’s done a great job,” he said. “He’s shown a lot of maturity.”
Ratliff says that the experience of taking care of Ben, has provided him with a whole new outlook on what it takes to care for a child and how difficult that can be at times.
“I really appreciate my Mom a lot more now,” he said with a weary chuckle.