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Nolan Peterson, a former special operations pilot and a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is The Daily Signal’s foreign correspondent based in Ukraine. Send an email to Nolan.
ERBIL, Iraq—A quick story about the meaning of Memorial Day from the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
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On my way to dinner, I hailed one of the city’s ubiquitous beige taxis and hopped in the front seat. Having been in Kurdistan before, I’ve learned to sit in the front seat. The taxi drivers act a little weird if you sit in back.
My driver was a handsome man in his mid 30s—about my age. I gave my destination in English, and he softly replied in Kurdish-accented English, “No problem.”
Off we went.
A moment later, I asked, “So you speak English?”
“Yes,” the driver said.
“Did you learn in school?”
US - Army
“No, I worked for the U.S. Army.”
My interest piqued. I paused, then introduced myself and told the driver my background and why I was in Iraq.
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“My name is Safeen,” he said, adding: “I love America. I have many friends who are American soldiers.”
“Do you still keep in touch with them?”
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“Of course,” Safeen said before proudly rattling off a list of names and ranks.
“I used to speak English so well, but I forget,” he said. “It frustrates me.”
Fine - Confidence - Chops - Safeen - Interpreter
I assured him he was doing fine. Then, with renewed confidence in his English-speaking chops, Safeen proceeded to breathlessly explain how, beginning in 2004, he had been an interpreter for the U.S. Army. He said he had worked alongside U.S. troops in combat in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, and Fallujah.
“It was very dangerous,” Safeen said, talking about Fallujah. “Every day there were shootings and bombings, very dangerous.”
Safeen - Peshmerga - Soldier - US - Invasion
Safeen said he was already a Kurdish peshmerga soldier before the 2003 U.S. invasion to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. When the war began, his commander asked for...
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