Among the many things that are required of a freshman in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — from buzzed hair, to shined shoes to elaborate rituals for nearly every situation — is to memorize a simple Bible verse, John 15:13.
“Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
These are not hollow words in Aggieland. It happened famously in Corregidor; tragically in Fallujah; in the trenches of World War I and mountains of Afghanistan.
Texas A&M graduate David Eubank knew this when he saw a girl of about 5 amid the remains of her family, slain in the ruins of the streets of Mosul, Iraq.
The girl was alive. There was a wall between her and deadly ISIS snipers.
For one little Iraqi girl, Eubank was prepared to stretch the definition of greater love.
“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,’” he later told the Los Angeles Times.
His dramatic rescue was caught on video and can be seen on Youtube. (Warning: The video contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.)
Eubank’s heroism is hardly out of character. He was a Texas toddler when he knew he wanted to be a soldier and a third-generation Aggie. After completing A&M’s Corps of Cadets, the class of ‘83 graduate served 10 years in the U.S. Army. He was a Ranger and, ultimately, a Special Forces commander.
If that seems like enough service for most, Eubank was just getting started. The son of missionaries, in 1997, he founded the Free Burma Rangers to help those displaced by the civil war in Burma. He moved his wife and kids across the world to help provide food, medical care and Christian outreach to those in need.
Nearly 20 years later, the Free Burma Rangers shifted their focus to Iraq, Syria and the victims of Islamic State terrorists.
That brings us back to Mosul, where this month’s dramatic rescue happened.
Nabih Bulos, reporting for the Los Angeles Times, described how it unfolded:
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. The girl’s hair is in pigtails, secured with what appear to be pink ribbons.
It wasn’t quite a Hollywood moment. Another toddler seen alive disappeared in the chaos. A wounded man didn’t make it. As for Eubank? He’s not playing the part of action hero. Instead, he works to keep the humility of a Christian aid worker.
“I believe God sent me here, and I don’t think about security,” he told the Times. “... but I always ask myself if I’m doing it out of pride.”