Marine commander, CSU student to meet face-to-face
As she crawled across the floor, two-year-old Amenah Thabit struggled to breathe, and her fingers and lips turned blue. When Maj. Kevin Jarrard, commanding officer, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 discovered Amenah on a routine patrol, he thought of Rachel – his own daughter.
This is where Amenah’s Story begins.
It was determined the Iraqi girl was suffering from a rare heart disease and, unless she received medical treatment, she would soon die. While a surgery to repair this kind of defect would be easy in the U.S., it was basically impossible in Iraq; they did not have the doctors or the facilities, and without it, Amenah would likely not survive. To save her life, Jarrard and his team needed to think quickly, think critically and create a plan.
It would not be easy. Life in Haditha, the Iraqi village where Amenah lived, was volatile, and terrorists took any opportunity to spread lies and propaganda against U.S. forces. They would surely threaten Amenah’s family, target the Marines, and say that the soldiers planned to harm (not help) Amenah. That didn’t stop Jarrard and the Marines from acting.
In addition to securing private jets, passports, Homeland Security visas, $30,000, oxygen to last a 14-hour flight, surgeons willing to donate their time/facility, translators, female chaperones, housing postsurgery and culturally appropriate meals, all of the preparations had to be done without any media attention. Amenah traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, and underwent open-heart surgery at the Monroe Carrel Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University. The surgery saved her life.
Amenah’s Story is a lesson in leadership, courage, perseverance, faith, and critical thinking. In fact, it is the central story of Now You’re Thinking, a textbook on critical thinking. Amenah’s Story is now an education tool being used in Charleston Southern’s Master of Science in Organizational Management degree program (MSOM 601 – Foundations of Problem Based Thinking).
The story compelled CSU student Gerald Addison. As he read Amenah’s Story, he had more questions than answers, so Addison decided to track down Maj. Jarrard. “For me, that was the only way I was going to complete the paper we were to submit,” said Addison. “I needed more insight into events, people and, most of all, I needed to know Kevin Jarrard better. I realized there was probably more to be learned about the Marine who was so intent on helping a child survive in a place where he could not be sure he himself would survive.” Addison eventually connected with Jarrard, and the student and Marine commander spoke on several occasions during the eight-week course.
“I feel I have enhanced my ability to assess information and make sound logical decisions,” said Addison. “I feel privileged to have shared some time with several, bright, ambitious individuals, to include Professor [David] Britt, and to have had the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas.”
On August 15, the lives of the student and the Marine will intersect again. Because of the impact of Amenah’s Story, Lt. Col. Jarrard will speak at Charleston Southern University to faculty, staff and students on Thursday, August 15 at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel on campus. Jarrard will share his story and the impact it has made on many people. The event starts with a reception at 6:30 p.m.
The following is a Q&A with Addison. He reflects on the impact the course had on him personally:
After reading Amenah's Story what compelled you to search for contact information for Lt. Col. Jarrard?
Gerald Addison: After reading Amenah’s Story the first time, I had questions about events that were not fully explained, at least to my satisfaction. I felt that Kevin Jarrard was probably the most likely person to help answer my questions, so I set about searching for contact information. To my good fortune, there was a host of information about him and Amenah’s story available on the web. After viewing the interviews, I read the story again followed by listening to the interview again, followed by repeated reading. After each cycle, I had more questions. At some point, I realized there was no way I could complete Professor Britt’s assignment in a manner consistent with my standards without talking to Kevin Jarrard.
Based on your response to the story, going the extra mile to connect with the subject, why was it important for you to do that?
GA: For me, that was the only way I was going to complete the paper we were to submit. I suppose I could have responded to the assignment by using only the provided resources, but I just felt that there was more to be learned from the events that made up Amenah’s Story than could be had in our course materials. That is not to imply that in any way those materials or the guidance provided by Professor Britt was not adequate, but for me personally, I needed more insight into events, people and most of all I needed to better know Kevin Jarrard. I realized there was probably more to be learned about the Marine who was so intent on helping a child survive in a place where he could not be sure he himself would survive. The short answer, I felt it certainly could not hurt, and it is always good to chat with a fellow warrior, and no one told me I could not talk with him.
During the course you spoke to Jarrard multiple times. Has the experience created a friendship?
GA: Lt. Col. Jarrard was most gracious in responding to me on several occasions. Our conversations dealt with my questions about Amenah’s Story, the military, our families and our faith. We share an allegiance to our country, a devotion to our families and a deep and abiding faith and belief in our God. Are we friends? According to my definition of friendship, not yet. To my way of thinking, it takes more than a few emails and some like-minded telephone conversations to develop what I deem to be a friendship, and I believe Lt. Col. Jarrard would concur. We had some very insightful discussions and I look forward to many more. At this point, I feel honored to have had him graciously giving of his time and insight to assist me. I am excited that he will speak at CSU and look forward to meeting him.
Finally, share your personal reflections on the Critical Thinking course. How has it impacted you?
GA: Over my lifetime, I have developed a desire to know all I can about whatever I am doing and strive to complete tasks to the greatest of my abilities. I am detail-oriented, arguably, to a fault. The Critical Thinking course offered a fresh perspective on how to make the most of what I was already doing. The course enhanced my decision making skills and broaden my knowledge base. But just as valuable and even more rewarding was the opportunity to interact with my fellow students and Professor Britt. I found that the discussions and shared opinions were unscripted, insightful lessons in individual logic. The course, Critical Thinking, provided me with both the tools to hone my somewhat rudimentary thinking skills and with the knowledge of how to apply those newly honed skills to enhance my decision making ability. Personally, the outcome was two-fold. One, I feel I have enhanced my ability to assess information and make sound logical decisions; and two, I feel privileged to have shared some time with several, bright, ambitious individuals, including Professor Britt, and to have had the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas. One should never stop learning. I think I demonstrated that no matter where you are in life, if you have the desire, you can still expand your knowledge base. Henry Ford said “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” - Henry Ford
Jarrard’s effort to help the suffering in Iraq was featured in two recent Post & Courier articles: