There are many stories about immigrants from my military days. One friend told me he walked across the Mexico/US border with his mother at a very young age. He was deported then and later came back to the United States legally. Another medic was a Southeast-Asian Buddhist who converted to Mormonism and married before our deployment. One of our infantry brothers immigrated from Argentina. He injured his eye in the war serving as a sniper. He later became a photographer and traversed across Iraq during the war, armed only with a camera and a local guide. He went on to publish a book about it.
In fact, our unit was full of immigrant’s stories. Our supply sergeant had the thickest accent and you could barely understand him. Despite that, he made the best of friends with the Turkish traders on our forward operating base (FOB) Marez.
Knowing those things, there is one special immigrant friend to all of us that stands out above the rest: our translator friend Khalid Saaty. Although he was not a soldier, we happily called him a brother.
Khalid was 10 years old when he lost his father and mother. He was orphaned with two older siblings and a younger brother. His father was a Turkish trader of watches and jewelry. They moved to Mosul, Iraq before the war when the standard of living was prosperous.
Khalid and his brothers and sister raised themselves as teenagers. When he was old enough, and the war hit Mosul with force, Khalid signed up as a translator to help the Americans. He spent eight months with us. During that time, our unit saw some heavy fighting. Khalid and all of our translators, unarmed and embedded in our operations, risked their lives just like the rest.
Khalid came to the United States in 2010. He now has a son, a six year old boy named Connor. Khalid continued his father’s legacy and opened his own watch business in Florida. He is currently in the process of becoming a citizen. When I asked him how he feels about his journey to America and whether he is okay with me writing his story, he told me frankly, “We were so young back then. In Mosul. We did it for each other. And always, brother, I’ve got your back.”
The blog is in part of the Mission Continues blog series, written by Jin Kong and therefore all words and thoughts are his own and not a reflection of GCWAC.