A U.S. Army veteran and former state representative is trying to get the Iraqi translator who served alongside him a visa to come to America.
Allen Vaught was an Army captain in 2003 when he led forces into Fallujah, just outside Baghdad.
U.S. forces worked closely with Iraqi translators for years. Some have been allowed to move to the U.S. while others were left behind and are being persecuted for helping Americans.
Vaught now wants to make sure one translator, who he calls ‘Sam,’ gets to the U.S. before he gets hurt.
Vaught is an attorney in Dallas and was a state representative from 2006 to 2010. He is also an Army veteran, who did civil and psychological operations during the war in Iraq. He says the Iraqi men who risked their lives to translate during the war are as much Americans as he is.
Operation Iraqi Freedom ended five years ago. Most American troops have pulled out. But Iraqi translators, who served American troops and remain in the Middle East, are in some ways still waging a war.
This Iraqi translator's name is not "Sam", but that's what Vaught calls him. Vaught was called the "Mayor of Fallujah" back in 2003 when he led U.S. forces in invading the city outside Baghdad. He helped set up the government and restore order there. He says none of that would've been possible without Sam, one of five translators Vaught worked with.
Each translator got paid $5 a week and risked their lives. After the war, Vaught helped bring two translators and their families to the states. Two others did not survive.
"I mean, one was burned alive,” he explained. “Another was hung from a light post — the electrical lines."
Vaught says Sam is now in hiding in the Middle East after staying to translate for Marines towards the end of the war.
"His mistake is he waited too long. He waited until the end,” Vaught said. “He didn't get out early enough like the others when the rules were more relaxed."
This fall, Sam had an interview with a U.S. government agency to determine whether he could come to the U.S. but has not heard back.
"We owe it to them,” Vaught said. “If they want to become a US citizen, I think they should come to the front of the line. And the government should expedite that."
Out of frustration, Vaught has started a WhiteHouse.gov petition to get Sam to the U.S. It needs 100,000 signatures to get the attention of President Obama.
Vaught feels like one of his soldiers has been left behind.
"To me, going to support translators like Sam is the same thing as supporting American troops,” Vaught said. “I mean, they were there with us, right alongside us."
Vaught believes that all translators who served in Iraq and Afghanistan should get preferential treatment in becoming U.S. citizens if they want to. He hopes President-Elect Trump will expedite that process for them.
The two translators Vaught helped become U.S. citizens now teach Arabic to U.S. military members.