As the debate about President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban — with a specific emphasis on Iraqi nationals — continues to rage, one American soldier recounted his personal refugee story Saturday on Twitter in a heartbreaking and humbling series of tweets about his time in Iraq working with a 16-year-old interpreter named Brahim.
The story sheds some light on why the ban on all Iraqis — and indeed other foreign nationals from the Middle East who worked for the American military and were promised visas in return — is a more complex issue than just a simple ban to shore up the vetting process. Many of these individuals are vetted more thoroughly than those who simply travel to the U.S. seeking asylum. And the bonds they form with American soldiers they work alongside is often a close and meaningful one, as this soldier's story details.
His story begins when he meets his young interpreter in Kirkuk, Iraq:
The soldier, who does not use his real name in his Twitter handle, tells the story through a series of tweets about his relationship with Brahim, who he says, "literally saved [his] life twice" during his deployment in Iraq.
Upon completing tour, the soldier left Brahim in Kirkuk and assumed he would die like so many of the other Iraqi nationals targeted for assassination for aiding the enemy. He thought he would never see him again, but he did — six years later in cab on the way to his younger brother's funeral, which took him to Arizona. As the soldier says, "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."
The story of refugees who were promised visas who find themselves barred from entering the U.S. as part of Trump's recent travel ban from foreign nationals of several Muslim-majority countries has the potential, as this soldier's story shows, to affect more than the individuals and their families who are turned away. It could also have some affect on the military men and women who worked alongside them and know the truth: that many of them are patriots who have already proven their allegiance and are fleeing in fear of their lives for their service.
The entire powerful thread can be read below and can also be found at the soldier's Twitter feed.