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After it was dropped off in a plastic bag near Forward Operating Base Callahan in Baghdad, a baby boy was cared for by U.S. soldiers. They nicknamed the boy “Alex Callahan” after the soldier who found him and the base where he was left.
After it was dropped off in a plastic bag near Forward Operating Base Callahan in Baghdad, a baby boy was cared for by U.S. soldiers. They nicknamed the boy “Alex Callahan” after the soldier who found him and the base where he was left. (Courtesy of US Army / Zach Mott)

It was a scene that could have ended in tragedy, but ended up being — even for a war zone — simply surreal.

Last week, American soldiers at a base in northern Baghdad watched as a car pulled up to one of the base’s entry points. The car stopped, and a woman emerged holding a large bag. She placed the bag on the ground, got back in the car, and the vehicle drove off.

It had all the markings of a potential bomb attack, and the soldiers responded in kind, sounding alarms and starting a search. What they found inside the bag was far more confounding than a bomb. It was a baby.

“We unwrapped it to make sure he was alive — and he wasn’t sick, he wasn’t dead, he wasn’t injured,” Staff Sgt. Paul Briscoe, who is in charge of Forward Operating Base Callahan’s medical aid station, said in an Army news release issued Wednesday.

“He was a perfectly healthy baby. I’m guessing three to seven days old. He was in perfect health. There wasn’t a scratch on him.”

The baby had been wrapped in several cloths and simply left on their doorstep, like something out of an old movie.

Medics examined the baby and pronounced him in good health. By this time, the soldiers — with the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division — had already given the boy a nickname: Alex Callahan, after the soldier who found the baby, and the name of the base.

An interpreter working on the base volunteered to buy diapers and formula from a nearby shop while others took care of the child until they could figure out what to do.

“I’ve fed him twice, just holding him, watching him, making sure that he’s all right,” Doreen Haddad, one of the unit’s interpreters, said in the news release. “I’ve changed his diapers twice. I wanted to give him a bath, but I wasn’t able to.”

In the days after the discovery, the troops and interpreter found a solution to what to do with the baby. He will be adopted by the brother of an Iraqi who works on the base; the man and his wife have been unable to have children of their own. The interpreters at the base have been taking donations to help the family care for the baby.

For the soldiers, the strangeness of having a baby on their base seems to have worn off.

“He’s sleeping and pooping — just like a regular baby,” Briscoe was quoted as saying.

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