After President Trump signed an executive order barring refugees and many others from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, protestors once again took to the streets. They’ve choked travel at airports, and once again made their presence felt in the nation’s capitol.
Others are taking a more introspective approach to the issue. Army veteran Dylan Park tweeted about his experience with a 16-year-old Iraqi boy working as an interpreter for a unit.
Twitter isn’t the obvious choice for long-form narratives, so we’ve compiled a version here that’s easier to read–but it is well worth a read, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself on.
Here’s Park’s story:
I told this story about refugees a couple years ago on Veteran’s Day with a humorous slant. I’m going to tell it again today, unfiltered.
Years ago, on my first deployment to Iraq, I befriended a local boy, Brahim, who would quickly become one of our interpreters. He was able to do so, because the turnover rate for local nationals work with us was enormous. And not because they quit, because they were killed.
Besides the money, we were able to get them to volunteer with us by promising them refugee status in the U.S. if they completed a tour. (But really, I think the chain of command knew that most interpreters wouldn’t make it through their contracts alive.)
Anyway, Brahmin would tell me about all the family members he lost in the conflict–brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, all of em. He told me how he lived in a one bedroom house with 7 people. No clean, power every other week because of the rolling blackouts, etc.
He told me how they did have the basic necessities most days and that him volunteering with us was one of their sole sources of income. One day, I went down to the PX and bought him $20, maybe $30 worth of toiletries. Nbd really. Just didn’t want dude to smell like shit.
When I presented it to him, he cried. Literally bawled his eyes out and said he give his life for me. OVER SOAP. Completely sobering. He spent the next year acting as our liaison, providing us with valuable intel, essentially saving our lives on a daily basis. At 16.
At the end of my tour in Iraq, I knew I was leaving him to die. I knew I’d never see him again. Was just kinda like “take care kid.”
Fast forward 5 years. And I’m flying home to Phoenix to bury my little brother who was brutally murdered. (Gun violence is another subject.)
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I cried my eyes out all the way from Hawaii to Arizona. Fucking brutal. Spend 6 years fighting wars and you don’t expect to get a phone call that your kid brother was randomly murdered in a carjacking.
Anyway, I land in Arizona and it’s pouring. Hop off and walk down to the taxi stand. (Uber’s weren’t really a thing in 2013.)
I get in the first taxi that pulls up and we’re off. Driver starts to make the standard small talk. Where you from, what do you do, etc. I tell him I just got out of the military and blah blah. He says “oh great. I love the military. You ever travel anywhere?” Tell him, “Sure. Been to every corner of the globe. Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.” He says “Oh! I’m from Iraq! What part?”
I say “Kirkuk, mostly.” And he says “I’m from Kirkuk.” And then gets really fucking quiet. Like awkwardly quiet. Making me nervous quiet. My first thought is I killed one of his family members and he recognizes me. And now I’m literally getting ready to bail out of the cab.
I see him staring at me in the rear view. I can see the anguish in his eyes. And then he starts to PULL THE CAB TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.
He stops, turns around and says, “Dylan, you remember me? It’s me, Brahim.” And I’m like wtffffff. And just start sobbing. We got out of that taxi off the I10 and Rural and hugged it out on a bridge in the rain on some Notebook shit. I didn’t ever care, man.
So I’m like WTF ARE YOU DOING IN FUCKING ARIZONA?! HOW? MAN WHAT? And he’s like I did my 4 years and they gave me a visa. They gave him some cash and a one-way ticket to the States. Asked him where he wanted to go, and he said where the weather is like Iraq.
So they sent him to Arizona.
5 years after I left him in Iraq and a few days after my younger brother was violently murdered, the universe linked us up again.
Brahim literally saved my life, twice.
Lost one brother, and got another one back.