Serving in the Army with a Psalm at His Side

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At age 10, Heritier Diakabana left his native country of Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo), with his mother and five siblings, to join his father in the United States. In 1999, his parents enrolled him in Principia Upper School.

After graduating in 2002, Diakabana joined the U.S. Army. He served as a gunner for his platoon’s sergeant, riding in the hatch of a Humvee during patrols in Baghdad, Iraq. With his upper body exposed to enemy fire, Diakabana thought often about Psalm 139 and its comforting question, “Whither shall I flee from thy presence?”

In May 2004 in Iraq, Diakabana found the same psalm especially powerful. While he was on a reconnaissance patrol, an intuition told him to turn around. Headed directly toward him was a rocket-powered grenade. Diakabana shouted a warning to his buddies and took cover. Shrapnel struck him, but he and his fellow soldiers walked away safely.

The following year, Diakabana entered the United States Military Academy, the only freshman in his class decorated with a Purple Heart. As heady as that may have been, Diakabana remained humble, ready to learn alongside his fellow cadets. He graduated from West Point in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a specialty in robotics. Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Diakabana is an Army captain now, training to become a military advisor and planning to start an executive MBA program at Northeastern University.

“The Army has allowed me to see various countries and to contribute to U.S. foreign policy while promoting peace and stability,” Diakabana says. “However, I think my most proud accomplishment has simply been the fact that I’ve committed myself to living an honorable life.”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Principia Purpose, where you can find other profiles of young alumni.