Scot Walker '90 June 19, 2017 9:45 AM updated: June 20, 2017 2:55 PM
A 1983 Texas A&M graduate runs through a hail of gunfire in Iraq to rescue a young girl in a dramatic video online.
'I thought, "If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,"' David Eubank '83 told the Los Angeles Times after the video circulated worldwide via the internet.
Eubank is a 1983 political science graduate of Texas A&M and the founder of Free Burma Rangers, a Christian-based aid organization formed to help displaced people in Burma after a series of Burma Army offensives in 1997 forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes.
In 2015, Free Burma Rangers changed its focus to start helping victims of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In the Los Angeles Times interview, Eubank described the situation leading up to the rescue caught in the video. Eubank said he saw many bodies, including women, children and the elderly, scattered over a street in Mosul, near a destroyed factory:
All had been shot, he said, by Islamic State snipers cutting down those fleeing the hell their neighborhood had become as Iraqi forces fought to dislodge the jihadists from their so-called Iraqi capital.
Then, in the distance, Eubank noticed movement among a group of corpses clustered before a wall pocked by bullets: A half-naked toddler stumbled over the bodies; a girl of about 5 peeked from under the hijab of her dead mother; propped up against the wall, a wounded man waved for help.
The sniper fire continued, and the survivors were 150 yards away. Eubank and some Iraqi troops quickly came up with a plan: Eubank would try to rescue the girl.
The Iraqi troops Eubank was embedded with coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition to drop smoke canisters to shield the rescuers from the snipers’ view. Eubank and others crept up on foot behind an advancing tank, bullets pinging all around them as they got closer to the wounded civilians.
“Then the Americans dropped the biggest barrage, the most perfect wall of smoke I’d ever seen,” Eubank said.
His team was yards away from the girl, and there still “was shooting everywhere.” But it was now or never.
As clouds from the smoke canisters swirl about, he prepares to dash from behind the tank to save the girl. He’s wearing a helmet and a bullet-proof vest over a black T-shirt.
He runs out as his colleagues, armed with machine guns, give covering fire. He scoops up the girl with his right arm, stumbling as he runs back. He’s gone and back in 12 seconds.
Eubank is the son of missionaries, and the son and grandson of Aggies.
“Since I was a child, I only planned to be an Aggie,” Eubank told Texas Aggie magazine for a story in 2012. He received a ROTC scholarship and he started at A&M in 1979. He was in Company I-1 and became a brigade commander his senior year.
Eubank served 10 years in the Army, as a recon platoon leader in Panama, a platoon leader in the 2nd Ranger battalion and then a detachment commander in a Special Forces group.
“A&M gave me a comprehensive education and the Corps taught me how to be both a good follower and a good leader,” Eubank said. “The adversity one faces in the Corps is great preparation for any challenge. I have always thought—well, that is not as tough as fish year!”
The entire Eubank family--Dave, Karen, and their children, Sahale, Suuzanne and Peter--works together in Iraq, just as they did in Burma (pictured above). “Although people would say it’s dangerous,” Karen Eubank told the L.A. Times, the work “brings meaning.”