Saturday, January 31, 2009

I remember a conversation that I had with a pair of my gun teams, in Iraq. The conversation was actually part 3(?) of what had started in an argument between a few of my guys. The argument itself wasn't really all that important, and honestly, I don't recall exactly what it was about. I do remember generally that eventually it had something to do with citizenship, either natural born or naturalized.

We were up on a lonely hill, watching a whole bunch of nothing, again. The only item of interest that had occurred was that one of my guys had invented/discovered that, with only minor modification, a wooden ammo case can make a pretty good shitter, for field use. He was quite proud of this, and tried to insist that everyone take a look at his ingenuity.

Yeah, it was a real slow day.

After mean-ole Sgt. Murphy made him dispose of his 'perfectly good' shitter, the conversation took a turn towards when we would see (if ever) an influx of Iraqi-born servicemen in the U.S. military. Most seemed to think that there would be a few here and there, but most likely no huge numbers, for a long while. Some pointed out the ING soldiers that nearly killed their fellow soldiers in training and ops, to support their dim views of the prospects. Others pointed out the soldier we nick-named 'Old Blue', as damn near the highest mark of respect for a crusty old bastard.

Even our translator got into the mix.

'Yusef' was a good guy, a bit older than us, in his late 20s - early 30s, very bright, motivated, and interested in a lot more than just collecting a paycheck. His family was Christian, and therefore didn't do all that great before but were managing ok, in their current situation. He was happy to have work far from home to protect his identity, but even still he would cover up on some of the ops in town of larger populations. His accent was only medium thick, his grasp of subtleties, innuendos, and whatnot was kind of tenuous, but he could definitely read between the lines. He was able to tell when to immediately stop whatever he was doing if say we needed to un-ass an area, post haste. He would at time saunter up to us, and with a whisper and a nod, tell us that the two detainees in the line were educated Saudis, and therefore the guys that we might really be interested in taking back to the detainee facility. He taught me a lot of Iraqi Arabic, and I taught him a little bit of Spanish. He had asked about Marine Corps training at one point, but honestly admitted he might have a better chance at going Army, due to his age and conditioning. His main goal was to one day live in the States.

Shortly after we were rotated out, the unit that replaced us took a pretty bad hit due to a land mine strike. KIAs included too many Marines, one doc... and one translator.

There was no word for a while, and eventually / for the longest time I assumed that he was the unnamed translator onboard. Word eventually came in a roundabout way that it was another translator that died, and that he was not only alive, but had figured out a way to make it to the States.

A little bird told me a while back, so I'm not sure of the exact date, but I'm just going to mark it down here for me how happy it makes me to hear that soon (if not already), 'Yusef' will complete his training and become a fine addition to the United States Army.



Old NFO said...

That's great news! Most of those folks don't get anywhere near that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Good for Yusef and may God bless him in his new life as a Soldier in the U.S. Army.

Xtine said...

Totally, totally awesome.

Karla (ThreadBndr) said...

If you ever get a chance to say 'heya' to him, thank him for his service - then and now.