An Iraqi who fled the country over security concerns after working with Marines as a translator for five years took the Oath of Citizenship this weekend and officially became an American.
Maher Ibrahim worked as an interpreter from 2004 to 2009 in Iraq’s al-Anbar province. He spent some of that time working with soldiers, but the majority of those years were spent working with Marines. He also worked with the transition teams, which trained, mentored and advised Iraqi national forces and police officers, he said.
But Iraq was a dangerous place for translators, Ibrahim said. So he headed to the U.S., with the help of a few Marines who befriended him in Iraq.
“The Marines were very understanding of our backgrounds, they were really good with us,” Ibrahim said. “It was just awesome working with them and I still keep in touch with some of them as well.”
When he arrived in the States in late 2009, Ibrahim said he missed the brotherhood and camaraderie he found while working with Marines. He said he wanted to pursue his education full-time but still wanted to be connected to the military lifestyle, so he joined the Army National Guard.
Ibrahim, now 29, is a private serving as a combat engineer with Virginia’s 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He’s also pursing a degree in global affairs.
“I’m still really new to the National Guard but so far, so good,” Ibrahim said. “They really like the fact that I had the experience working with soldiers and Marines in Iraq as a translator.”
On Saturday — Armed Forces Day — Ibrahim took his commitment to the U.S. a step further by becoming an American citizen. And a few of his Marine buddies he worked with in Iraq turned out to see it, he said.
“It was a very emotional day for me,” he said. “I felt like I’m home. Everybody was really nice to me, it was just a really good feeling.”