The faces of war aren’t always found under helmets or above camouflaged uniforms. They don’t necessarily participate in the war that affects them, their families, and their existence. But they are there, present in every war, the local residents of war-torn countries. They shouldn’t be forgotten– for they are the reason that our service members continue to fight.
Bilal Sharif is a first-grader at Clarks Summit Elementary School in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In his few short years, Bilal has already led an extraordinary and inspirational life.
Bilal was born in a refugee camp, in either Pakistan or Afghanistan, to parents who were displaced after their village was taken over by the Taliban. The boy was born with clubbed feet and his bladder on the outside of his body. Bilal’s bladder exstrophy caused the young boy a lot of pain and suffering, as some side effects of the condition include bladder and urinary tract infections, abnormalities to genitalia, and incontinence.
For over a year, Bilal has lived with a host family in Pennsylvania as he has undergone surgeries for his bladder and to correct his feet. In-between surgeries and recuperation, Bilal goes to school and experiences childhood. Because Bilal’s real birthday is unknown, his host family said that they intend to celebrate his tenth birthday on January 1, 2015.
Earlier in December, Bilal was visited by the person he calls his best friend– Major Glenn Battschinger.
In 2012, Major Battschinger, a civil affairs for the U.S. Army, found the boy helping his father make bricks in their impoverished village in Afghanistan. Battschinger convinced Bilal’s family to agree to a mission that would save the boy’s life, and after snipping through the red tape, was able to bring Bilal to the U.S. for surgery. As young as Bilal is, you might think that moving away from his home and family might be traumatic. But with wisdom far beyond his age, the boy sees that Major Battschinger was helping to provide Bilal with a future– one filled with opportunities that wouldn’t have been available to the boy in war-torn Afghanistan.
Bilal wants to get well and continue to go to school. He has already decided that he wants to become a doctor and help children in Afghanistan. Before that can happen, this inspirational child will have to endure more surgeries, recoveries, rehabilitation, and a lot of schooling.
After hearing Bilal’s remarkable story, there is no question that he will be on the receiving end of everyone’s well-wishes. But if you are able to help financially, there is a fundraising web page set up to benefit Bilal at: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/qdg6/walkforward
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Military Connection: Bilal: A Different Face of War: By Joe Silva