Special Forces Determined To Not Leave Iraqi Family Behind [VIDEO]

Special Forces Determined To Not Leave Iraqi Family Behind [VIDEO]

Special Forces Determined To Not Leave Iraqi Family Behind [VIDEO]

We still have soldiers in Iraq. And we still have Iraqis working with those soldiers to keep them safe. Here’s a story that will remind you of what some of the Iraqi people have gone through – both to support our troops in the field, and if they are an ethnic minority within the path of ISIS.

Stars and Stripes tells the story of a group of Special Forces soldiers that are trying to fulfill a fallen Iraqi interpreter’s dying request, and “care for… his widow, and his orphan.”

The interpreter, Barakat Ali Bashar, an ethnic Yazidi, was killed in September 2007.

Barakat Ali Bashar — known as “Andy” to troops — shielded then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride when a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle search near the Syrian border.

McBride, a former Special Forces medic who was shot twice by insurgents as he helped other wounded troops, remembered his friend’s final plea.

So, in 2015, he began writing letters in support of an application for a special visa to bring Bashar’s family of ethnic Yazidis — including his widow, son, mother and brother — to America, after he heard they’d fled their home near Mount Sinjar to escape Islamic State terrorists and were living at a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.

We have covered what happened to the Yazidi when they were overrun by ISIS in the past few years.

Those stories – and the sacrifice of the man they called “Andy” – spurred McBride to action.

The Special Forces troops made sure Bashar’s family got a severance payment; however, McBride, who was on crutches after the attack, worried about them when he returned home a month later.

“I was the last person he talked to,” McBride said. “He said, ‘Take care of my son. Take care of my wife’. That always stuck with me. But I’m just a soldier. I wish I could. Any other day I would have been the guy with his hands on the suicide bomber. All those ball bearings that lodged in him would have gone into me. I wished there was something I could do.”

McBride stayed in touch with another linguist, Hadi Pir, and was heartened when he came to the United States under a program that provided visas for Iraqis who had worked with U.S. forces.

“These guys see more combat than Special Forces operators,” McBride said. “It’s great to see them get rewarded for their effort.”

When McBride and other veterans heard that Bashar’s family had fled their home, they started writing letters and sending emails in support of their efforts to come to the United States.

“I owe him my life. I would put them up in my home if that was an option,” he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, also wrote in support Bashar’s family’s effort to immigrate.

“[Bashar] never shirked duty or responsibility and could always be counted on to steer our team in the right direction,” he wrote in his support letter. “Additionally, he never faltered in his commitment to help American forces in Iraq, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region, describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces.

“I would have absolutely no hesitation recommending Barakat’s family be granted citizenship, as they truly epitomize the sacrifice that so many have made during these troubling years of war in Iraq,” he added.

Swett recalled the last conversation he had with Bashar in which they hoped their children might play soccer together in America one day.

After his death, the Special Forces troops conducted a patrol to his village to attend his funeral, Swett wrote.

“We felt so strongly about being there for him that we would risk our own lives to pay respect to his,” he wrote. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”

And the family still lives in fear, especially because of Bashar’s work with the American troops.

In emailed answers to questions from Stars and Stripes Bashar’s family wrote that they’d received about $10,000 in three installments from the U.S. government as compensation for his death but had lived in constant fear ever since. When the Islamic State took control of Sinjar in 2014, they fled, leaving their possessions and personal documents that proved Bashar’s service with the Army. The capture of the documents by the extremists added to the family’s fears that they might be targeted.

Even now, living in a camp in Kurdistan, they worry that Islamic State supporters are living among the thousands of displaced Arabs who have migrated to the region in recent years or even among the local Kurdish population.

“These radical groups target all Yazidis, however, our situation was much harder since even many so-called moderates view people who worked for the US Army and their families as enemies,” the family wrote in response to questions from Stars and Stripes.

Today, they’re struggling to get by in the relief camp and too scared to return to their home in Sinjar, they wrote.

Before his death, Bashar was one of 50 interpreters slated to come to the U.S. under legislation signed by President George W. Bush, the family wrote.

Later, they applied for a special immigration visa under the program for interpreters, which had been expanded by President Barack Obama to include 500 people.

The family has been able to obtain the documents they needed to prove Bashar was an interpreter for U.S. Army at the time of his death, but is still held up in red tape, waiting for an interview with the State Department.

There is story after story after story of just how dangerous the life of an interpreter is in Iraq. And we should not forget how the Yazidi have been targeted by ISIS.

Here is the story of one man who gave his life doing that job. His family, a persecuted ethnic minority, needs to get to safety. If we truly are a “nation of immigrants,” as the left likes to claim, then let’s bring the family of one who sacrificed for us to live here.

Featured image: U.S. soldiers in Iraq, 2009 (image via Pixabay)

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