One of the first casualties was a Texas soldier named Alan Babin. He and his family are being called American Heroes.
The Early Show National Correspondent Thalia Assuras reports that while looking a photos of Babin in his Army uniform, his father, Alain Babin, says his son signed up because of the impact of the tragic events of Sept. 11.
Al and Rosie Babin were both in the Army once, so they both encouraged him.
Alan Babin Jr. had two goals: To learn to parachute and to become an Army medic.
Rosie Babin says, "We told him, 'Alan Babin, they're the first ones in and on the front lines!' And he said, 'I'm going to join; and I want to be someplace where I can help people.' "
Just 12 days into the war, the 23-year-old's division was caught in a fierce firefight. A soldier was hit, and Alan Babin, the unit's lone medic, gave up cover to help him. A bullet ripped through Alan Babin's stomach - an army doctor put it bluntly.
"It was the worst," Alain Babin says. "One of the worst gunshot wounds he had ever seen, and had anybody survive from."
Rosie Babin adds, "They were using terms like: 'It's a miracle that he's still alive.' He had lost his spleen, 90 percent of his stomach."
Then, came meningitis and a stroke.
So the Rosie Babins says they, "prayed a lot! We prayed a lot!"
Alan Babin's family refused to give up hope. They sent a flurry of e-mails to a hospital ship overseas. This one was from sister Christy.
"You are truly my hero and inspiration for life," she wrote.
"Because of what he did," Christy Babin says. "He risked his life to save somebody else's, with no regard to his own safety."
Alan Babin's battle for life has meant enduring more than 70 operations.
His doctor, Sean Gilbey, says most people don't go through 70 surgeries and survive. "But you don't see most people like Alan Babin who have that kind of determination."
That determination may be in his DNA: Mom Rosie gave up her accounting job. His father Al took leave from the police department. Both traveled from Texas to Washington to keep vigil at their son's bedside.
"The shock of seeing Alan Babin, that was tremendous," Alain Bobbin says. "There's no doubt about that."
But his wife Rosie says there was never a moment when they thought it was time to give up.
"If we gave up, Alan Babin would give up," she explains.
Doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have treated almost 4,000 soldiers wounded in Iraq. Alan Babin spent nine months there, longer than any of the others. He couldn't speak. He could barely move. His survival, say doctors, had everything to do with his parents' resolve.
Rosie Babin says, "I did not want people to be crying around Alan Babin, making him feel like this was a hopeless situation. I did not want him to doubt that he was going to recover."
While no tears would flow inside Alan Babin's room, his mom was the "one that cried in the shower," Rosie Babin says. "The one that went toe to toe with doctors, that had all the medical training they could afford, but didn't know my son the way I knew him."
Alan Babin responded. He was moved back to Texas. He gained strength and began mouthing words. His first word: Water. His second: Mom.
What did she think?
"He's back. He's here," Rosie Babin exclaims. "It's like watching somebody rise from the dead; it's the only way I can explain it."
Today, Alan Babin Jr. is slowly starting to walk and talk.
Asked if he is feeling stronger, he replies, "Yeah."
Alan Babin's and his family's determination has caught the attention of the White House, and the State Department, and members of Congress, like Texas Rep. John Carter (R), who has befriended the family.
What comes to mind when he thinks of Alan Babin? "A young kid that did extraordinary things," Rep. Carter says. "What comes out of people that makes them heroes? It's not Hollywood's version; it's the guy (gesturing to his heart) that's got something inside that says, 'That's my buddy and I gotta go get him!' "
As for Alan Babin's parents, Rep. Carter says, "I see them as heroes, too. Absolutely!"
But this dad also has a father's pain.
"I'm very proud of him," Alain Babin says. "Sometimes, sometimes I wish he had gone to school, (wipes away a tear) instead of the military."
Alan Babin has no regrets. Asked if he would do it again, he says, "Yeah."
And for those who ask, he says with difficulty in his speech, he is just a normal guy.
He is a guy who will one day live a normal life in large part, says his doctor, because of Alan Babin's parents. Some people are calling them heroes.
"They are," Dr. Gilbey says very emotional. "I've taken care of a lot of people, and they're truly just, they're remarkable."
While in rehab, Alain Babin tells his son, "Give me a hug. Good job, son."
While the Babins were at Walter Reed, family friends and even total strangers back in Texas pitched in to build a new addition to their house: a room filled with medical equipment, so Alan Babin can spend time recovering at home.
Alan Babin told Assuras he'd like to pursue a career in medicine (no surprise there). His mother had absolutely no medical background, but during Alan Babin's recovery, she has learned and studied to the point where doctors say she now knows as much as they do about his condition and his treatment. This is a very "take-charge" family.
Sometime this summer, Alan Babin will have one more major surgery, as doctors hope to reconnect his digestive system. Having survived an ordeal that few doctors thought was possible, his prognosis now is excellent.