Battle Rattle

Dakota Meyer’s interpreter, once scared in Afghanistan, now safe at U.S. Wal-Mart

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Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer posted this photograph on Twitter on Friday, showing himself with the interpreter who fought alongside him in Afghanistan in 2009. Fazel had been afraid for his life, but has been allowed by the State Department to stay in the U.S. (@DakotaMeyer twitter)

In recent weeks, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer has forcefully advocated for the U.S. to allow his former Afghan interpreter into the U.S., saying the man feared for his life after getting death threats from the Taliban.

Fayez, shown at right with Meyer, is now in the U.S. The Marine posted the photograph on Twitter on Friday, adding a note that showed relief.

“Back together finally,” Meyer said. “Fazel is in America.”

Fazel — known in a lot of previous media coverage as Hafez to protect his identify — was in the Ganjgal Valley in eastern Afghanistan on Sept. 8, 2009, when forces from Meyer’s unit were caught in a fierce ambush staged near the Pakistan border. Meyer, now a sergeant in the Individual Ready Reserve, received the Medal of Honor in 2011 for heroics in the battle. A soldier also in the melee, Army Capt. Will Swenson, will receive the U.S.’s top award for combat valor in a White House ceremony Oct. 15.

Meyer’s book, “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle of the Afghan War,” portrays Fazel as a hero. It says the linguist was with a four-man team of U.S. troops that went missing when the ambush erupted. They covered his initial escape from the village, but he sustained a minor gunshot wound to the right arm in the process. A second round hit him in the armor plate covering his back.

Nevertheless, Fayez volunteered to go with Meyer back into the Ganjgal Valley to help wounded Afghan soldiers and find the missing U.S. troops: Marine 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, Marine Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton. All four men died that day. A fifth member of the training team, Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth W. Westbrook, died a month later from wounds suffered during the battle.

Under fire, the interpreter hopped in and out of the Humvee driven by then-Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez to assist Meyer, according to the book, and later manned the gun turret.

“Twice, Hafez and I got out, climbed up the sides of terraces, found the [Afghan soldiers], and lugged them down the terrace walls to the wash,” Meyer says in the book, using the linguist’s pseudonym. “After we’d loaded two into a Ranger, my brain finally kicked in: I couldn’t be the gunner and the corpsman at the same time. I didn’t need Hafez out there in the fields with me. [Rodriguez-Chavez], though, needed someone on the gun.”

Meyer and the co-author of his book, Bing West, take the U.S. to task for failing its interpreters in an opinion piece that was published in the Washington Post last weekend.

What’s happening is a failure to keep faith with those who fought beside us,” it says. “The State Department has defied Congress by denying visas to thousands of interpreters who, like Fazel, fight alongside our soldiers.”

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Comments

  1. Offthewallflower Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I was born in the USA. I was trained in the USA at DLI (Defense Language Institute.)I speak multiple middle eastern languages and dialects. This can all be learned and acquired. I would love to say I would have the courage and instinct that Fazel had, but I cannot be certain that I would have. This is an amazing story and a true testament to the faith and brotherhood that is fostered within the units. Thank you Dakota for standing up and demanding that the foreign linguists be allowed the opportunity to enter and live in the country they have fought so hard for. These men ( and women) have given up their safety in their home country for a cause they believe in and that is so incredibly admirable.

  2. Dakota Meyer’s interpreter makes his way to U.S. — OFFduty+ Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 10:25 am

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  3. Jack Thomas Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I’m a MSgt in the Air Force reserve and a student at my local community college. I needed some tutoring for math one day, and my tutor, I learned came from Iraq. He to was an interpreter for U.S. forces. We sat and talked for a while and he is thankful and loves this country. He is studying Petroleum Engineering and said once he finished with school he would like to get a job here in the states with one of the major oil companies, settle down and get married and raise a family. I’m certain he will. He told me he would never go back to Iraq. “My country has nothing to offer me and all there is war and killing.”

  4. David Berry Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Fayez should be awarded the Silver Star for his action. He does not qualify for the Navy Cross, though that is certainly deserved.

  5. This Afghan Translator Once Saved A Soldier’s Life — Now He’s Getting Screwed By The US | Lord of the Net Says:
    September 26th, 2013 at 6:45 pm

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