Jeff and I met a man recently, but I will not say when or where, or even tell you his name for his privacy. For this purpose I’ll call him Sam. We didn’t ask him to, but with one polite question, Sam began to tell us his story.
Sam; you see, served in the US Air Force and served our military diligently and faithfully in Iraq. I can’t recall what year it was. He was one of many Non US Citizens who served the American Military. They served to gain American citizenship, escape their own war-torn country, or simply because they believed in what they were fighting for.
Men and women volunteered from Australia, Ethiopia, Europe, Guatemala, and Canada to name a few. Most had never set foot on American soil. These people were given the same gear and weapons as our brave men and women. They were given training and jobs to do and areas to protect.
Sam made many friends during his service. He watched as they fought side by side, and he held them as they died in his arms. Sam decided to spare me the gory details, but I understood what he was saying.
In his home country, Sam is a college graduate and holds an MBA. He is also a pastor. As a Christian man, he enjoyed sharing the bible with the people (service men and women, as well as citizens) he came across. He especially enjoyed talking to the children he met.
Being well versed in many languages made it easier for Sam to communicate with the locals, as well as the other non-American service members who may have had issues with the language barrier. Sam didn’t say it, but as you can see he was a very valuable member of the service.
When the war quieted a little and the troops were withdrawn, Sam and many of his fellow volunteer service men and women were left behind. There was still a war going on mind you, but the decision to remove many of the American troops were set. Sam prayed and thanked God he was still alive. He knew he was still there for a reason. Sam and the others continued fighting for the cause, serving next to those who remained behind, waiting for their turn to withdraw.
You see Sam knew he would be going to America after he served them so diligently, time after time putting his own life on the line. After all, now that he had served the American Military he was considered a criminal in his own country. If he went back, he’d be arrested or worse. So he waited and he prayed. He also thanked God that his family was safe.
As time went on, and nobody came for them, Sam became angry. Still he prayed, only he was asking: How could they leave them there? After everything, the sacrifices made, the lives given for a country that wasn’t even theirs and they left them behind! The anger almost got the better of Sam, but he knew he still had a small chance. So he prayed again, and thanked God he was alive.
He watched helplessly as hundreds of his friends, men and women gave their lives for a country they weren’t even a citizen of. He understood why they served, as he too believed in what the US Military was trying to do. Even as he prayed for their lives and prayed over the dead, he continued doing what he came to do, he fought, the anger inside him simmering below the surface. Still he prayed that he would find a way out.
With everyone either dead or gone, Sam knew he wouldn’t make it out alive, there was nobody coming for him. He thought he should get to the American Embassy, he knew that if he made it there he would be saved. He prayed and thanked God for the gift of knowing many languages.
Getting to the embassy was harder than it seemed. Sam did the only thing he could think of. If you’ve ever heard the saying “when in Rome,” then you can probably guess what he did next. He found some clothes native to the area he was in. He is dark-skinned, and remember he can speak many languages fluently, so he blended right in.
As he was doing his best to blend in, so he could travel unnoticed to the American Embassy, the Iraqi soldiers were beginning to suspect that he was not of them. Just when Sam was close to being caught, he closed his eyes and said a silent prayer.
Sam was running for his life now, the soldiers, no longer fooled, were onto him. He ran and hid when he could and ran some more. Just when he was about to give up he saw the most welcome sight ahead, American Soldiers. He thanked God for them.
Sam ran right up the first soldier he saw, unarmed, arms raised telling him, I’m on your side! The soldier actually had actually fought alongside Sam and remembered who he was. He rushed Sam to his commanding officer, who horrified at Sam’s story accompanied him, to the American Embassy.
There is something that Sam had to say to the Commander so he would know that he was on the side of the U.S., but Sam couldn’t talk about that part. I didn’t press him, as we sat enthralled with Sam’s story.
Once safely inside the American Embassy, Sam repeated his entire story from the moment he left his country to serve the U.S. Military, including the part where he and many of his brothers and sisters in arms were left.
As Sam spoke the words the anger he held for so long came bubbling up to the surface again. “Why did you leave us behind?” he shouted at the commander, knowing it was not the commander he was really shouting at. The Commander let him go on and on, and took everything Sam hurled at him through his words. He held him while he wept for the lives lost and for the betrayal Sam felt.
When Sam ended his tale the commander shocked and disgusted by what had happened to Sam and to the others, asked him to sit and wait a moment while he made a call. Sam doesn’t know whom the man spoke to, and never asked. When he returned, he simply knelt by Sam and prayed with him.
The commander assured Sam that there was never any intention to leave any soldier behind. In fact the commander saddened and horrified by everything he heard, kept repeating “No man left behind!” As a few soldiers had entered the office now to see what the commotion was about, they too began repeating “No man left behind!” Sam took his head from his hands. When he opened his eyes, the soldiers, including the commander all stood at attention and raised their hands and saluted him.
As everyone gathered around Sam, hugging him, shaking hands, and thanking him, another soldier brought him a fresh uniform. As he was cleaned up and changed he heard the familiar beat of a helicopter, and it was close.
As they escorted Sam to the helicopter, the Commander, holding a small bag, got in beside him. “Where do you want to go Sam, anywhere in the world,” the commander asked him.
Sam considered briefly returning to his own country. “You’ll be arrested, or killed if you go back there now Sam.”
Sam knew he was right. “While you sort that out, come stay with me and my family.” It was almost an order, but Sam knew that he and the Commander now had bond of friendship that could never be severed, and that he would go home to America and he would go with the Commander.
Sam did stay with the Commander and his family for a short while until he discovered what he wanted to do. After receiving a medal of honor from our president, Sam now calls the Pacific Northwest his home, and has a very good job. He starts medical school in the fall.
Sam is also the pastor of a church, and there are many people from his home country in his congregation. It makes it a bit easier having his family so far away.
Sam also knows that as soon as he becomes an “official” American Citizen, he will be free to return to his home country any time he wishes, and plans to do so.
Sam apologized for taking up so much of our time, but he can always tell when someone needs to hear his story and knows they will listen. I told Sam he should keep telling his story, as inspirational as it is, he should write it down.
Sam’s story taught me that no matter what is happening in your life, always remember what you have, not what have not. Always try to find the good over the bad. And finally, I learned that no matter how it seems you are never truly alone.