by Kevin Dicciani
Mohammed Al-Jumaili was only 12-years-old when he lost his right leg in a car-bomb explosion in his hometown of Falluja, Iraq in 2006.
A U.S. charity flew Al-Jumaili to Shiner’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where doctors were able to salvage his left leg and make a prosthetic for his right leg. After making a full recovery, he moved in with Charles Affel and his family in Wyndmoor for two years, a move made possible by the organization Hosts for Hospitals.
Even though Al-Jumaili didn’t speak English and the United States post-9/11 had strains of anti-Middle Eastern attitudes coursing through it, he embraced the change and adapted, overcoming all odds.
“I had difficulty with the language and also fitting in the country,” Al-Jumaili said. “It was very hard to move to a new culture. I really wanted to be a good American citizen.”
When Al-Jumaili was 13, Affel, who has been involved with the Boy Scouts, specifically Troop 177, encouraged him to join the Scouts, which he “liked right away.”
Four years and 36 merit badges later, Al-Jumaili was promoted to Eagle Scout – the highest rank – on Dec. 1 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. And because he well-exceeded the 21 merit badges required to be an Eagle Scout, he was also honored with the Bronze Palm.
For his Eagle Scout project, he knocked down 65 feet of fencing around the church and re-did the grounds to prevent storm water runoff. He joins the likes of Neil Armstrong, Gerald Ford, and Steven Spielberg, who were also Eagle Scouts.
Al-Jumaili, now 17, is currently a senior at Abington Senior High School, where he went undefeated in wrestling and is also the number one singles player in tennis despite having only one leg. And if his schedule wasn’t packed enough already, he is also a member of the Robotics Club, a volunteer at Red Cross and a translator for the Global Medical Relief Fund.
He plans to go to college and has applied to several universities, including Drexel and Lehigh. He plans on majoring in Mechanical Engineering.
For Al-Jumaili, it sounds like his exceptional journey is just beginning.