When he was 16-years-old, Ali J. Mohammed escaped from Baghdad, Iraq with his family, and made it to the United States as a refugee.
Now he’s 23, and he’s back in Iraq — this time as a US Marine serving at an undisclosed location in the northern part of the country.
Cpl. Mohammed is serving with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, an infantry battalion supporting the anti-ISIS fight better known as Operation Inherent Resolve. Though his job is in supply, his main role there is serving as an Arabic translator.
“To be able to read, write and speak Arabic is normal to him, and for him to be a US Marine and understand how we operate is just phenomenal,” Maj. Ryan Hunt, his team leader, said in a statement. “He’s just a pleasure to work with and is a huge asset to this team. He’s had such a positive attitude and is very mature; sometimes I forget he’s only 23 years old.”
His path from Iraq to the United States began in 2009, when his family received “numerous threats” from militants due to his sister’s work as a translator for US troops, according to a military news release. They were able to make it to the US, where Mohammed learned English, worked to support his family, and went to high school.
He graduated in 2014, and later that year decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. Mohammed said one of his big inspirations for joining was his sister’s trust and support of American troops she had assisted. Though it’s worth mentioning that not all translators have been as lucky to receive the special immigrant visas they were promised when they began risking their lives.
“America is my home, but Iraq is my homeland,” Mohammed said in a statement. “My biggest motivation right now is to help drive these extremist groups out of my home land, and being able to do that as a United States Marine is the most rewarding thing I could have asked for.”
This is actually his second deployment to Iraq. On his first, he said, he served at an Army hospital where he helped doctors trying to assess patients who did not speak English.
The story of Mohammed’s journey was first published on military sites on Monday and tweeted by the official DoD Twitter account on Wednesday, leading some to believe it might be a subtle dig at President Trump’s planned ban on US visas being issued to people living in a number of Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq.
There were about 4,000 US troops who listed their religion as Islam in 2016, according to The New York Times.
Cpl. Mohammed said that he wants to continue in the Marine Corps as a translator within the service’s elite special ops unit, MarSoc.
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