DALLAS – An Iraqi translator who aided US forces during the Iraq War is finally safe in the United States after a decade-long battle led by a US Army veteran to keep his promise.
For 11 years, government bureaucracy, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, left one person who put his life on the line for America hiding in the Middle East.
But this bureaucracy was finally broken.
It was reunion years in the making.
Retired US Army Captain Allen Vaught last saw the translator he called Sam in Fallujah in 2004.
“It’s been a long time, yeah,” Vaught said upon reuniting with Sam. “Welcome to Texas, you’ll be used to the heat.”
Vaught said Sam risked his life in Iraq helping American soldiers.
“We paid them $5 a week to risk their lives on a mission with us,” Vaught recalled. “Except they had no weapons, they had no body armor.”
Vaught has seen translators come and go.
“A lot of people gave up because of the dangers, but Sam was brave and stayed with us until the end,” he said.
Other translators were killed.
“Five translators I had, two were killed, one was burned alive. They put themselves in great danger,” Vaught said.
There was a window of opportunity for the translators to flee Iraq, but Sam felt his job wasn’t done yet.
When things got too dangerous and Sam wanted to immigrate to the United States, that window closed.
And that’s what started the 11-year legal battle.
FOX 4 has followed this case with Vaught, a former state representative, and other lawmakers over the years.
Lawyer Rochelle Rotea started helping out while still in law school.
On Friday, she arrived with Sam on a plane from California.
“Technically I’m not his pro bono lawyer anymore because his case is over, but I really wanted to see him through and literally bring him home,” Rotea said.
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Vaught’s son, Jonathan, was in kindergarten when his father started fighting for the person who was there for him in the middle of the war. Now Jonathan is entering 10th grade.
“I had been injured and so he came all the way from Fallujah to the relatively hostile area – I mean for all of us, but certainly for someone who is Sunni – in the Shia area of Sadr City and came to our base to see me,” Vaught recalled. “I told my kids it was important to keep your word.”
Sam said he was grateful to have a new life where he no longer has to live in fear.
“Freedom is freedom. Freedom is everything,” he said.
Vaught is going to help Sam acclimate to the United States by helping him get ID and learn how to apply for jobs.
Sam was a teacher before the war in Iraq.
So far, Vaught has raised $4,000 to help Sam get established.