Skip to comments.Soldier comes home a foster dad to Iraqi boy
Posted on 02/20/2005 10:32:39 AM PST by saquin
MAUSTON, Wis. - Capt. Scott Southworth took his soldiers to a Baghdad orphanage in 2003 to befriend the children.
Immediately, a small boy with cerebral palsy befriended him, crawling across the floor to sit next to him. Within a few weeks, Southworth knew he had to bring the boy, Ala'a, home to Wisconsin.
More than a year later, Southworth returned to Iraq to pick up the 11-year-old and take him back to Mauston, where Southworth now works as Juneau County district attorney.
The single 32-year-old knew the alternative for Ala'a was life in a government orphanage with little chance of adequate medical care or an education.
Physicians, social workers and some politicians in Wisconsin all came together to help Southworth bring his new foster son home.
Southworth wanted to adopt Ala'a, but Iraqi law makes that illegal. He brought the boy to Wisconsin two months ago under a "humanitarian parole" that lets him make sure the boy gets medical care and goes to school.
Humanitarian parole lasts a year, but Southworth says it can either be extended, or other immigration possibilities will be in place.
"He will be staying with me," said Southworth, who served in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004 as head of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Military Police Company.
Ala'a, who understands Arabic and English, must use a wheelchair and can't fully use his arms. Otherwise, Southworth hopes he can live as actively as other boys.
"Ala'a really adopted me," Southworth said. "By the time we left that first day, he was trying to take off my watch or to do anything he could to keep me from leaving the orphanage."
Southworth and his fellow soldiers visited the Mother Teresa Orphanage in Baghdad a few times a week for several months. He learned the orphanage would eventually transfer Ala'a to a government facility for older children and adults.
"One of the Iraqi doctors told me that if Ala'a went there, there was a good chance his life was over - and that wasn't just because he'd be warehoused in a room; he meant his life might be 'over,'" Southworth said.
That's when Southworth decided to devote himself to the boy. It wasn't an easy decision - he looked at every reason why he should not take on the responsibility, but he discarded all the excuses.
"I guess I consider myself a devoted Christian, and I finally asked myself what I would say if, someday, I encountered Ala'a in heaven and he asked me why I didn't come back to get him. When I asked the question, I could feel the shame that would have covered me if I had talked to him," he said.
When he returned home in July, he launched his campaign for district attorney and his effort to bring Ala'a home.
"Humanitarian parole is very rare," he said. "I don't know if there has been another case like this."
Doctors in Wisconsin promised to provide free care for Ala'a, who isn't eligible for Southworth's health insurance.
Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton offered to help with letters of recommendation, as did Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep. Mark Green. Lawton and Feingold are Democrats, and Green is a Republican like Southworth.
Southworth started his new job Jan. 3 as district attorney in Mauston, about 60 miles northwest of Madison. A few weeks later, he learned the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved the humanitarian parole, and he soon was on his way to Iraq.
Ala'a was at the Baghdad airport waiting for him, and within hours they were both on a flight to Chicago.
Now Ala'a is enrolled in middle school, where he already has two friends.
"I think I've been the lucky one," Southworth said. "He's making my life more fulfilling. I think, maybe, my lifestyle used to be focused on me. Now I have someone else to focus on."
Great story ~ thanks saquin!
Aren't we lucky to be part of a nation full of real men like Scott Southworth? Thank goodness there is only one Ted Kennedy, and millions of Scotts. (And Saquins.) God bless.
What a wonderful man. God bless both of them.
Don't ask, don't tell.
What a wonderful story! God Bless them!
An American to be proud of.
What an incredible man.
A heartwarming story, thanks for the ping!
"What an incredible man."
What an incredible set of neighbors and friends, too.
What a country we are blessed to live in.
Thanks for the ping!
Thank you for the heartwarming story, and God bless Capt. Scott Southworth!
Morning! Thought you'd enjoy this one.
Lump in the throat time.
Thank you for posting this. Puts my day (and life) in a whole different perspective.
I guess I have a different perspective on this article. First, I thought it was scary, reason one: here is a Capt. that served in Iraq with the U.S. National Guard. At first I thought this is nice that he is adopting this special needs child, but then I saw this article and an interview about this matter on CNN. I changed my thought about this. This Capt. Southworth is endangering this child by being on TV and in all the news magazines. We now know where Mr. Southworth lives and works, so does any Iraqi who is upset with the war and that some American has taken this child and is now rasing the child as a Christian. This scares me. Also I did some research about Mr.Southworth, he looks like a political wonk that is after more press for his political career.
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