- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - From Chicago to Afghanistan, Dr. Jerry Umanos dedicated his service to poor children.

The pediatrician was among three Americans killed when an Afghan security guard opened fire Thursday at a Kabul hospital. He was volunteering in Afghanistan to train young doctors, periodically returning to Chicago to work in a Christian clinic on the city’s southwest side.

Umanos “was always working to help inner-city kids and trying to help out any needy, poor kids anywhere,” said Jeff Schuitema, Umanos‘ brother-in-law.

The fatal shootings at Cure International Hospital in western Kabul were the latest in a string of deadly attacks on foreign civilians in the Afghan capital this year.

In an interview inside her Chicago home, Jan Schuitema, Umanos‘ wife, said he always wanted to work with children, and became fascinated with Afghanistan when visiting through a Christian clinic in 2006.

“What he would really want people who care about this to know is that he really did love Afghanistan and the Afghan people,” said Jan Schuitema, a teacher in Chicago who also spent time teaching in Afghanistan.

“This should in no way negatively impact people’s feelings about the country or about the people in the country,” she said. “They are no different than us here.”

The couple moved individually back and forth between the two countries. They knew other people who had been killed in Afghanistan - doctors, nurses and community development workers. Yet they did not live in fear.

“There’s always a concern. This isn’t the first time we’ve been through this. And there’s always a thought that this could happen,” she said. “It’s a reality, but it doesn’t, we weren’t afraid. When you know you’ve got God’s backing, the fear is not there.”

In addition to the pediatrician who was killed, “also two others who were here to meet him, and they were also American nationals,” said Afghanistan’s Minister of Health Soraya Dalil. “The two visitors were father and son, and a woman who was also in the visiting group was wounded.”

Colleagues in Chicago are heartbroken about the loss of Umanos, 57, who had worked for more than 25 years at Lawndale Christian Health Center in the city, said Dr. Bruce Rowell, medical director of clinical quality at the facility.

“He was … for many of us on staff, the pediatrician for our very own children,” Rowell said at a news conference in Chicago.

“This loss is a great loss for his family, for those of us he worked with as well as for the people of Afghanistan,” Rowell said. “He was a loving and caring physician who served all of his patients with the utmost of respect.”

Dale Brantner, president and CEO of Lemoyne, Pa.-based Cure International, said he did not have solid information about what motivated the attacks, but that “it doesn’t seem to be religiously motivated.”

“We’ve existed there for 12 years being unapologetically Christian,” he said.

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