US soldier's fight to bring translator to America

Another story about the natural concern of many military personnel for local staff who worked with them in the field, and are now in special danger because of their employment with coalition forces.

Soldier's fight to bring Iraqi translator to US

By SHARON COHEN

The Associated Press

Monday, October 12, 2009; 12:01 AM

 

WASHINGTON -- They became good buddies during the war, the young American soldier and his invaluable Iraqi translator, an easygoing guy who could spot dangers in the shadows and calm jittery nerves in the streets.

When it was time to go home, Joey Coon, then an Army National Guard sergeant, set up an e-mail account for his translator, Bandar Hasan. He gave his friend a quick lesson on how to use it so they could stay in touch.

Joey didn't expect much. Bandar wasn't familiar with computers. But he did call on occasion, and the two joked about him coming to America one day, an idea that seemed far-fetched.

That all changed one morning when Bandar called Joey, his voice tense, his message urgent. He was no longer a translator, he was on the run and in fear of his life.

"He was very scared and worried and thought he was in a lot of danger," Joey says, recalling how this conversation differed from others. "It was less about two guys joking, 'Hey buddy, won't it be fun when you come to the U.S.,' and more like 'Joey I need to get the heck out of here!'"

Joey knew Bandar had risked his life for him and other American soldiers.

Now he was determined to do all he could to save him.

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Among the thousands of Iraqis who've worked with Americans during the war, probably no group has faced greater danger than translators. They've been denounced as spies, condemned as traitors. Some have been killed, others tortured or threatened.

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