On a West Seattle street these children of war play.
Their father saved lives as an interpreter for US troops in the Iraq war.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I had translators that went home at night, and were killed that night. And had their families wiped out,” says General Peter Chiarelli.
“They’re true patriots. They’re true patriots.”
And now this family is in need of a hero so they can stay in their home.
We will call him Ahmed. And we are protecting his identity because he fears for his family’s safety in Iraq.
Ahmed’s home was part of a voucher program run by Seattle based NAVOS.
The Seattle Housing Authority owns the house and raised its rent. So NAVOS decided to return it to SHA.
Ahmed was given a section 8 voucher and a deadline of the end of the month to find a new home.
“And I have been looking since the first day that she told us. Never found a suitable place,” Ahmed said.
For many people that would be a major setback. But Ahmed’s journey to Seattle from war torn Iraq prepared him for this moment.
Ahmed was a volunteer and a dreamer, “My dream was to come and work with the U.S. government because they were, and still are, saviors for us.”
General Chiarelli served as commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq.
He was responsible for the day-to-day combat operations of more than 147,000 U.S. and Coalition troops. “Without an individual like this, who can help us communicate with every day Iraqis, who can help us understand the cultural differences, I promise you that there would have been many, many, many more Americans who would have never come home,” Retired Gen. Chiarelli said.
Ahmed worked with this man named Riyadh until he was fingered by the militia as an interpreter.
“The militia killed him. They shot him (with) hundred bullets. I feel sad because he was doing honorable job.”
Soon after his friend’s death, Ahmed’s uncle was given a warning.
“They told him that hey, your sister’s son will be killed. And we have his name. And we tell you that you should tell him to leave the country within 24 hours.”
Ahmed went into hiding.
And was later told of the Special Immigrant Visa Program.
But just 50 interpreters would get one.
The process would take two years and during that time Ahmed would have to find a way for his family to survive.
“I was afraid to go out so mostly I spent my day on the roof of my house, and just sit there and watch the sky,” Ahmed said.
They lived cramped in a small room with a young child and a pregnant wife who suffered through constant artillery fire.
General Chiarelli says she too is a survivor of the highest order. “But I dare say there’s no one, no one, I don’t care how strong you were, that wouldn’t be affected from what she went through in the two years and the period after, in trying to hold her family together”.
And when Ahmed’s Visa required the signature of a General Chiarelli stepped up.
“We owe these folks a lot. We didn’t conscript them. We didn’t tell them they had to translate for us. They came to us.”
And in 2009 Ahmed’s nightmare was over when his Visa was approved. So he and his family took the flight of their lives to land on American soil.
A day he now considers his birthday.
Ahmed is working, his wife is suffering from PTSD. He is an American citizen.
But more than that, they are Seattleites and neighbors to Mike Caso.
“Oh everybody likes him. The whole neighborhood. Everybody’s been willing to sign letters to keep him here. We’re trying our best to…so they can stay here in this neighborhood”, Mike said.
And now facing losing his home, he called me asking for help. I went straight to the Seattle Housing Authority.
Kerry Coughlin from the Seattle Housing Authority said it stepped up for Ahmed from the very beginning. “What we did when we found out what all of the circumstances were we met here at SHA and said let’s just make a commitment that they can stay in that house.”
The Seattle Housing Authority now says Ahmed’s family can stay in the home indefinitely.
Ahmed’s family is safe, his wife is still recovering. He thinks nothing of his sacrifice, Ahmed says American troops are the ones to be praised.
“It’s nothing compared to the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers. Those who are still suffering in Iraq. I did nothing compared to what they did.”
The Seattle Housing Authority says it never intended for Ahmed to move out of the house. But he was never told that until we got involved. The Seattle Housing Authority is working on a funding mechanism to keep him in that home. If that doesn’t work, the SHA says it will try keep him in the neighborhood.