Monday, October 1, 2007

Tragedy and Inspiration

When Frank Carvill of the New Jersey National Guard was mortally wounded in an ambush in Baghdad in 2004, one of the men who tried to save him was an Iraqi interpreter attached to his unit. Today, that interpreter and his family are living safely in New Jersey. For that, you can thank the good men of the Jersey Guard---and Frank's own inspiring example.

Suhaib Abdulwahab is the interpreter's name. I met him, and his wife, at a dinner-dance last Saturday night in honor the men from the outfit (3rd Battalion, 112th Field Artillery) killed in two bloody days in Baghdad: Frank, Christopher Duffy, Humberto Timoteo, and Ryan Doltz.

Capt. Don Kennedy, who admired and commanded Frank, told me the story of the ambush and Suhaib's efforts to save Frank's life. Standing with Don, in the back of a crowded VFW hall in Saddle Brook, NJ, it wasn't easy to listen.

I had always consoled myself with the belief that Frank died instantly in an explosion. To learn that he was initially conscious, and that he told his comrades to look first to another man, was difficult to hear--and fully in character for Frank, who always put others first.

Don explained how the men from the outfit, who appreciated Suhaib's willingness to accompany them on dangerous missions, worked to bring over him and his family. (Mike Kelly told the whole story beautifully in today's Record.)

Then he told me something that I'll never forget.

Frank was a major activist in New York and New Jersey for Irish Americans and immigrant rights. And as Don worked against all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles to bring over Suhaib and his family, he thought about Frank and all the work he did for immigrants. Frank became an inspiration.

Frank's death will always be a tragedy, but the great example that he set for so many people will enrich the world for years to come.

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