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This Iraqi translator risked his life for US troops. Now, he's one of them
Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed lives in California, and serves with the Active Guard Reserve. But he didn't come into service the same way his colleagues did — he started as a translator in Iraq, for American troops.
Ahmed — whose name was changed in an Army press release to protect his identity — served as a translator with the 1st Battalion "Bandits," 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in 2003. Shortly after he started working as a translator, however, he began to accompany infantry troops on raids and night missions in Baghdad.
"I began to see the Army as a melting pot," Ahmed told current soldiers with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT on September 11 at Fort Bliss, Texas. "There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity.
"As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood."
The mission that sticks with him, he said, is the Bandits' final ambush toward Fallujah. It was there, Ahmed said, he lost his "best friend" — Sgt. Scott Larson, a 22-year-old soldier who was killed when his convoy was ambushed. Afterwards, though the Bandits had their deployment extended, soldiers all signed and presented an American flag to Ahmed as a sign of their friendship.
In 2005, Ahmed decided he wanted to take his U.S. flag back to Baghdad — he "protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag." He took the bus, but while the bus approached an anti-American checkpoint, he knew he had to hide the flag, or risk losing his life.
"In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway," the Army release says. "He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using [an] old-rusty tin can as a shovel."
Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008, and now serves in the California Guard.
Years later, in 2016, his parents were planning to travel from Iraq to the U.S. to visit him. Before they left, Ahmed called his father — he knew exactly where he had buried the flag he treasured so much, and asked him to bring it with him to America, which he did.
"When my father told me he had located the flag," Ahmed told the soldiers at Fort Bliss. "A part of me was alive again."
‘We constantly have them on our minds’ — A little-known agency searches all over for the remains of MIA service members
The 80-minute ride each day to the site in Lang Son Province, Vietnam, through mostly unspoiled forestland and fields, reminded Air Force Master Sgt. Aliah Reyes a little of her hometown back in Maine.
The Eliot native recently returned from a 45-day mission to the Southeast Asian country, where she was part of a team conducting a search for a Vietnam War service member who went missing more than 45 years ago and is presumed dead.
Reyes, 38, enlisted in the Air Force out of high school and has spent more than half her life in military service. But she had never been a part of anything like this.
A U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicle burst into flames on the side of a Polish roadway on Saturday, the Army confirmed on Monday.
A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."