If ever a veteran personified the spirit of the DAV Freedom Award at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, friends and family will tell you it’s 34-year-old Alan Babin.
On March 31, 2003, while serving as a medic in Iraq, Babin’s platoon came under attack, and a fellow soldier was struck by enemy fire. Babin rushed to the soldier to render aid and was shot through the stomach. The bullet tore through several vital organs and left a gaping wound in his torso. He clung to life for three hours before the firefight ceased long enough to medically evacuate him.
Several weeks later, while recovering at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, Babin contracted meningitis and suffered a debilitating stroke. He was left paralyzed, unable to communicate, and completely dependent on others forhis care.
Following more than 70 operations, including five brain surgeries, Babin slowly began showing signs of progress.In 2005, he attended his first winter sports clinic.
“The Winter Sports Clinic has been the main venue for his growth over the years, and he is now on the verge of becoming an independent skier,” said Babin’s recreational therapist and coach, Jose Laguna. “I have known him since 2005, and the only way to describe his progress is nothing short of a miracle.”
“I don’t know what inspires me,” said Babin. “I just know I have a starting point and an ending point, and the ending point is where I want to be, so that’s what I do. I get to the ending point.”
During the event’s 29-year history, thousands of veterans have proved to themselves that their injuries do not define them. Ensuring that veterans receive world-class health care and rehabilitation is a primary goal of VA and DAV. When veterans conquer the mountain, it proves to all that a disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.
“We are so proud to see veterans like Alan make such incredible strides out here on the mountain,” said DAV National Commander Ron Hope, who twice participated in this event after losing his arm in Vietnam. “Every year he comes back here with a great attitude and a tremendous work ethic, and it shows in the progress he’s made.”
“It’s really comforting to know you’re not the only one who went through something,” said Babin.
Both Babin’s mother and father, Rosie and Alain, are Army veterans and have stood beside their son as parents, caregivers and advocates. They said they believe the clinic was a turning point in their son’s rehabilitation.
“We have witnessed a lot of miracles and continue to be amazed daily by his determination,” said Rosie Babin. “He does not consider himself a hero, but he’s become my hero for the battle he has fought day after day after day to get his life back.”
Learn More Online
To learn more about the event and Alan Babin, visit www.wintersportsclinic.org.