The Afghan father left the mountains on foot, carrying his 2-year-old son, but the health clinic could not treat the skull fracture that blinded the toddler and immobilized his left side. By chance the next day, two American medics stopped by the clinic in Day Kundi Province to check on another patient.
The rooftop fall that cracked Malik's skull Aug. 19 set in motion a chain of events that took the boy from his remote village to the US military hospital in Kandahar, where doctors patched the tear in his brain and replaced the bone. On Saturday, his crescent-shaped wound healed, Malik the baby in the family of five children headed home with his father, Khodadad.
Khodadad carried Malik out to the gray truck hired to drive the rocky roads of central Afghanistan back to Ashtarlay, a northern district of Day Kundi. But for Khodadad, who traveled 50 miles (80 kilometers) in the first futile effort to reach the Afghan clinic, the return was worth every uncomfortable bump.
"God answered our prayers," Khodadad said. "God sent someone to save my son."
Josh, one of the medics who treated Malik and arranged to evacuate him to Kandahar, said the boy's father lights up every time he sees the Americans. The medics only give their first names for security reasons and as part of the Special Forces embed rules. Lt. Col. James Miller, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, said the resolve of the U.S. medics to treat the child "demonstrates we mean what we say."
"And at the end of the day, the boy needed help," Miller said. Josh and Khodadad shook hands Saturday _ and Josh got a high-five from Malik. The father touched his heart and thanked Josh repeatedly before climbing into the truck, driving away as the medic looked on from the front gate of the team's base in Day Kundi. "When Malik goes home, that is a village of mainly poor people. This will be their only memory of Americans," he said. "At some point somebody will be working in that village and hopefully they will say these are the guys that helped that baby."