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Minnesota National Guard
A Walk to Remember: Iraqi interpreter's dream comes true in Minnesota

When Hazim Nadoom was a child, his dream was to come to the United States, particularly to see “the land of 10,000 lakes” His dream came true in January, as the Iraqi interpreter made it to Minnesota to see some old friends

Hasim worked as an interpreter for the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1/34th BCT), 34th Red Bull Infantry Division during the brigade’s deployment in 2006-2007 in south central Iraq It was a dangerous job, but a vital one

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“Hazim interpreted on many occasions while I was treating Iraqi locals,” said Sgt Espen Hansen, a combat medic for E Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry (2-136th CAB) during the deployment  “From third-degree burns to broken arms to vehicle collisions, I don’t know how we could have communicated without him”

“Hazim was such a vital part of our mission success that I can’t imagine what we would have done without him,” said Cpt Peter DeCrans, a platoon leader with E Company, 2-136th CAB during the deployment “By having Hazim with us, we were able to work with Iraqi Police and Army units and go into local villages along vital supply routes”

“Hazim placed is life on the line in combat multiple times with us” DeCrans added,” and because of this, we all thought of Haz as a Red Bull Soldier and battle buddy”

Shortly after the 1/34th BCT departed, Hazim’s vehicle was hit by an IED, and he was medivaced to Bagdad After Hazim recovered, he worked with the US Air Force, training Iraqi fire fighters and first responders at Talill Air Force Base

Because of the dangers to his life and his meritorious service supporting the US military, Hazim was selected for a special Iraqi visa to immigrate to the US The process took two years and a lot of paper work, but Hazim finally made it to Minnesota in January 2010

“Since I was a kid, I was reading about Minnesota and because my parents worked in a school, I had access to books with pictures of Minnesota,” said Hazim   “It was so green, and my country is desert [so] I want to come”

Minnesota, of course, is lacking in green during the winter, and the cold and ice were quite a shock for a desert dweller with no experience with snow

Hazim was able to cope, however, through the warmth and kindness of his Red Bull friends Friends like Hansen and DeCrans, who, in May, joined Hazim in the Bataan Memorial March in Brainerd, Minn

It was something Hazim wanted to do, not only to honor the WWII veterans that suffered in the Philippines, but also to honor the Red Bull Soldiers he had known in Iraq, seven of whom were injured and one of whom had died

Also on his mind throughout the 20-mile march were the seven relatives and three friends he had lost

It’s all a bit improbable, really, that old war buddies can reunite from halfway across the world, a fact to which Hansen readily attests

“Three years ago, while performing combat operations in Iraq with Hazim,” said Hansen, “I couldn’t imagine that he would be marching by my side during the Bataan Memorial March in Brainerd, Minnesota”

However, with his old friends, Hansen and DeCrans by his side, Hazim’s steps were a little bit quicker  After all he has been through, what’s a little 20-mile hike?

By Master Sgt Rich Kemp
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
20 June, 2010


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