Update: A Rose By Any Other Name has more, including an email from the chief himself
This is Air Force Medical Chief John Gebhardt and a Iraqi orphan. Terrorists killed her family and shot her in the head. Miraculously, she survived. As reported in the email that has been making the rounds:
She was cared for by John’s hospital and healing up, but has been crying and moaning. The nurses said John is the only one she seems to calm down with, so John has spent the last four nights holding her while they both sleep in that chair.
As John at Op-For points out, "With a wounded Iraqi child in the Chief's arms and a pistol holster on his shoulder, the photo does seem to capture our purpose in Iraq rather succinctly." Yes, this is another demonstration of the fundamental compassion of our military men and women that underlies their professional lethality.
But I was struck with the reminder that these pictures do not capture merely a one-way street; this is more than military man comforting the victim of war. Once, in the middle of a very painful time, I found myself stretched out on the couch with an friend's sleeping infant snuggled into my neck. The feelings were overwhelmingly powerful--both enlivening and soothing, almost instantaneously centering me in who and what I was. And I suspect it is similar for Chief Gebhardt in this case; in the middle of the soul-challenging insanity of war, it's a reminder of who he is--Human. Man. Brother? Father and husband, perhaps? Protector, most certainly. Grounded in the reality of this helpless child snuggling at his neck...
Sometimes I think babies are magical.
Update II: Just for clarification, I believe the 2nd picture is a different child. It's the same chief, though, and he is reportedly known for comforting wounded infants and toddlers at the hospital.