Rick Perry: Now that Ross Perot is gone, I can tell this story
Originally published in the Dallas Daily News.
This week, the nation remembers Ross Perot for his success in business, his two independent White House bids and his no-nonsense, straight Texas talk. His love of country, larger-than-life personality and generosity are all part of his legacy that will live on. But there is another little-known part of the life of Ross Perot that should be told now that he is gone. He was a tireless, but private, supporter of our wounded veterans.
During my time as governor of this great state, I had the honor and privilege of knowing countless warriors who stepped forward to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home with horrific wounds of war. U.S. Army Cpl. Alan Babin Jr. is one such hero.
While serving in Iraq in 2003 as a medic in the 82nd Airborne, Alan was shot in the abdomen while tending to a fallen comrade. While Alan survived his injury, he faced a long and difficult road to recovery, complicated by the onset of meningitis and a stroke-induced coma that left him confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
On the one-year anniversary of his wounding, I joined Alan and his family for a small gathering. He was still in very bad shape, neurologically and physically incapacitated. When I asked his mother, Rosie, what I could do to help, she said she was eager to get him out of the hospital and back home, but struggling with the prospect of transporting Alan to his many medical visits.
I knew there was one person to call: Ross Perot. What happened next still amazes me to this day. The next morning, Ross personally called Rosie and made arrangements for his plane to pick up the Babins in Austin and fly them to Dallas where Alan could be seen by leading neurologists at Zale Lipshy University Hospital.
When the hospital elevators opened, Ross was standing there to meet Alan personally and ensure that he got the best of care. Later that day, Rosie was handed a key to a hotel room across the street so she could be close to Alan throughout his extended stay.
It didn’t stop there.
When Rosie returned to the family home in Round Rock for her daughter’s prom, Ross visited privately with Alan to sit with him and make sure he wasn’t alone.
After three weeks in Dallas, Alan and Rosie returned home to Austin on Ross’ plane. When they arrived home, a fully customized luxury conversion van equipped with a wheelchair lift was waiting for them in their driveway.
Later when they spoke, Ross told Rosie two things: “One phone call is all you ever need to make if you need anything. Now, I want you to focus on Alan.” And that is exactly what happened.
In 2005, when Alan needed to return to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Ross flew the Babins to Washington, D.C., and arranged for a private ambulance to pick him up on the tarmac and transport him to the hospital.
Today, Alan and his parents live together in a specially adapted smarthome provided by the generosity of another great champion of our wounded warriors, Gary Sinise. Thanks to the support of patriots like Gary and Ross, Alan has progressed in his limited physical ability to become an accomplished adaptive skier, hand cyclist and golfer.
Over the years, Rosie has come to call those who rushed to Alan’s aid “Alan’s Angels,” but the title “Big Angel” is and will forever be reserved for Ross Perot.
While alive, Ross would have shunned any effort to grant him credit for his support of Alan and the untold others he quietly helped through unimaginably challenging times. But now that he is gone, everyone should know the quality of the man that our state, our nation and our wounded veterans have lost.
God bless Ross Perot.
Rick Perry is the former governor of Texas.