The Baby in the Night: A Mission for Mariam
Marine’s Rare Encounter Leaves Lasting Legacy
On a warm night in an Iraqi city, a baby’s cry rings out. It’s the voice of Mariam, a two month old with a life threatening condition. The infection is getting worse. Help is needed. But time is running out.
Life for baby Mariam, is about to take a drastic turn.
The boy with the cape:
As a child, Jared Shoemaker of Tulsa, Oklahoma was known for helping others. Dubbed the “protector,” it was common to see the brown-eyed boy dressed as a superhero swooping in to save the day.
“Jared was strong, always lending a hand,” smiled his mother Linda. “In fact, when he learned a bully had been taking his younger brother’s lunch money, Jared chose to confront the culprit face to face."
All it took was one intense stare down from Jared, eye to eye with the bully...
The lunch money never wound up in the wrong pocket again.
A decision to serve
“As Jared got older, serving and protecting remained a top priority,” said his father Ken. A State Farm agent with a knack for helping others, Ken thought his son might follow in his footsteps.
“I wanted him to go into business, but Jared always wanted to be a Marine,” he smiled.
Jared joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2002, and in 2006 left for his first tour to Fallujah, Iraq.
“Our phone calls were scarce and when we did talk, Jared would tell us he was okay and things were fine,” Ken explained. “To be honest, he made it seem like an uneventful tour.”
Even his letters were basic. But between these lines of ink…a different story was unfolding.
While serving in Iraq, Jared and fellow service members encountered a frantic woman clutching a baby to her chest. It was clear, the child needed help.
Jared learned the baby named Mariam, had a rare medical condition where her bladder was growing on the outside of her body. Without medical care, she wouldn’t survive, but the decision to help was dangerous. With tensions high in Iraq, Jared and his platoon were frequently under enemy fire. So they created a plan to protect Mariam, her family and themselves.
Hope in the Night:
When the sun set, and the streets were clear, Jared and fellow Marines would visit the baby’s home in secret. But the troops knew these trips in the night were a temporary fix. Mariam needed more care.
Through a series of carefully coordinated efforts - plans were made to fly the baby girl to the United States for surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
A Precious Sacrifice:
That fall, Mariam’s life was saved. But Jared Shoemaker never knew that. Neither did his fellow Marines.
About a month prior to Mariam’s surgery, the men were on a routine patrol when they came in contact with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The bomb went off with a blast so forceful, everything changed in an instant.
On September 4, 2006, Jared Shoemaker lost his life.
He was 29 years old. Two other Marines passed away that day. Only one survived.
The Protector’s Story: Revealed
Ken and Linda never knew their son had been working behind the scenes to save Mariam’s life, until one of Jared’s commanding officers visited their home.
“After Jared’s passing, he told us what had really been going on,” Linda explained. “It meant so much to hear this…it was very healing for me.”
“It shows our troops are there to make peace,” added her husband Ken. “You truly see the best of the best in these young men. They volunteer to serve and sacrifice. We owe them a lot.”
To this day, the Shoemakers have not met Mariam. A few weeks after her surgery, she and her family returned to Iraq. And yet, Mariam continues to hold a special place in the Shoemakers’ hearts.
Recently the Shoemakers attended a reunion with about 300 Marines, many of whom served with Jared. There, they learned one of the Marines would be heading back to the Middle East.
“He plans to put out some feelers - and see if he might be able to locate her,” smiled Ken.
The Shoemakers continue to pray for the child they never met. They pray for her safety, for her health and happiness.
And they hope one day, their paths will cross. “We would love it if we were able to meet her,” said Ken.
A Lasting Legacy:
In his short life, the boy with the cape, the ‘protector’ who loved superheroes…grew up to do more than save the day. Jared Shoemaker helped save lives.
Photo Credit Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World
“These men and women have a special call to duty, and should be honored,” said Ken. “Jared was there to help, and to protect the citizens of Iraq.”
And through his selfless acts of courage and kindness, Jared’s legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of those who knew...
This protector, turned hero.