It’s Memorial Day, and I cannot think of a more appropriate time to share the inspiration for the “Now You’re Thinking” book. The first chapter of “Now You’re Thinking” honors the amazing courage, perseverance, faith, and critical thinking skills of the Marines in the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment. These men moved mountains to save the life of a 2 year old Iraqi girl (Amenah Thabit) despite unbelievable challenges.
The story of how Amenah’s life was saved is truly a lesson in leadership and strategic thinking. It all started with a transformation in the military engagement in Haditha. The Marines worked very hard to build trust among the residents in the village. In a time of war, they were seeking peace. During one of these routine home visits, Sargeant Velasquez noticed a young toddler whose fingers, lips, and toes turned blue when she played. Instead of ignoring the symptoms, he called in Major Kevin Jarrard and Navy Captain John Nadeau to investigate further. With the most basic equipment, Captain Nadeau diagnosed Amenah with congenital heart disease (though it was later revealed to be even more complex than that). While a surgery to repair this kind of defect would be easy in the U.S., it was basically impossible in Iraq. They had neither the doctors not facilities to perform such a surgery, and without it Amenah would likely not survive the winter. To save her life, they had to work some magic.
Even before I read this book, I imagined that taking a toddler to the U.S. to have surgery would be an amazing feat, but I was even more amazed after reading the story because I could never have imagined all of the obstacles this Marine Battalion encountered on the journey. 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 post-surgery, and culturally appropriate meals, all of the preparations had to be done without any media attention. You must remember how volatile Haditha was in 2007 and that the terrorists took any opportunity to spread lies and propaganda against US forces. They would surely threaten Amenah’s family, target the Marines, and say that the soldiers planned to harm (not help) Amenah.
In addition, several unforeseen challenges threatened the success of Operation Amenah including a blizzard and friendly fire incident.
In truth, there were more opportunities for failure in this journey than success, yet Amenah was saved. What made the difference? Phenomenal planning? Determination? Luck? Divine Intervention? Teamwork? Leadership? It was probably a mixture all of those things. Today, I give credit to the men and women who listened to their hearts and “thought differently” in order to save Amenah’s life. They are truly heroes and deserve to be honored today.
Kudos to Major Kevin Jarrard, Navy Captain John Nadeau, Sargeant Velasquez, Lieutenant Colonol Bellon, Dr. Karla Christian, Major Mark Lamelza, Major Kevin Clark, the staff of Vanderbilt University and so many others who played a role in Amenah’s survival.
Even as I’m writing this summary, I realize I haven’t done justice to this story. There are so many more details I haven’t included that will astound you. If you would like to learn more about Amenah’s journey, “Now You’re Thinking” is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.
Image source #1
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.