When Sammy Comes Marching Home, Huzzah

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that a young college student came to work for our firm. Sam had a knack for languages and we encouraged him to complete his studies while he was making copies of endless pleadings for us, mere mercenaries in the war between the men and the women.

One day we came to work and found a window shot out of our building, right above the copy machine. Had this gone off during the day it would have killed him. Instead, the neighbor was cleaning his pistol there the night before and it went off accidentally. We dug the slug out of one of our walls. Sam went back to work like nothing happened, making copies of pleadings, reloading the artillery of the conflict that is our trade.

Well several thousand dollars later in student loans Sam became certified as a translator for Spanish. He found the money we pay court interpreters barely covered the gas for his ancient Ford Taurus to and from the courthouse. Otherwise there was no work. Then the car broke down.

One night he asked me to meet him at the local watering hole to talk about some opportunities he had.  OK, I said, and before the first beers were served he told me about what the U.S. Army could do for him. They were paying lots for guys like Sam at the time. I told him I thought it was a great opportunity. He enlisted.

I have been told there is a right way, and I have been told there is a wrong way. Sam was told there is an Army way. Like my father, Mark Sr., Sam was sent to the Monterey school of languages owned and operated by the US Army.  Unlike my father who studied Russian and was stationed in the Fulda gap in West Germany, Sam  found that after 18 months of rigorous study of Korean, he was sent overseas to Iraq. The only Koreans he encountered were in Kuwait.

I thought well, he was an interpreter. What kind of danger could he be in? Plenty it seems. Every night he would mount up with some Rangers in Striker vehicles and go to some neighborhood or village and decide who to take in for interrogation. Basically Al Qaeda had decided to confront us there, the strategy being to defeat us militarily if possible, which would mean we are indeed a soft target. After that they can expect to convert to their side everyone else. Sam’s job was to decide who was likely to be in, and who was out of that mission, then interrogate them.

There were lots of events for Sam while deployed he just couldn’t tell us about. The Bronze Star he was awarded suggests strongly there wasn’t a lot of sitting around in air conditioned, fortified barracks staring at computer screens. But he was mustered out eventually and landed new civilian job, back in Iraq. For more pay this time and only for a year. And no more Striker missions.

He did say one thing. We are dreaming if we think we can just elect as President a guy who promised to end the war and walk away from that country without there being some blow back on us. The term “client state” was used in relation to Iraq as to Iran. “Tribes” was another term he used regularly, and somehow I think the connections for Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, run deeper than whether one is from Washington State vs. Alabama and even that three part distinction isn’t enough detail. There was one man who can hold Iraq together, Sam said, and his name was Saddam Hussein.

Sam is back, married with a child and in one piece. We shall see if Iraq stays that way.


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