At age 17, I arrived in Los Angeles ready for an adventure, but I never expected my adventure to begin so quickly after the plane had landed. I gathered my bags and made my way to the front doors. I glanced at the people around me, and focused my eyes in on the man in a fine-tailored suit holding a white-board with the name “Ms. Gibson” written in black cursive.
The driver took my bags and lead me to where the limo is parked. He was short, middle aged, and what most teenagers in the US would pin-point as from the Middle East.
“So…” I started. “How do you know so much about the city of L.A?” I didn’t expect our conversation to turn into much, let alone carry on past a few sentences. “Oh, I have been driving for years,” he answered. “I wasn’t always a driver, though, I served for a 3 years in Iraq.”
The mood in our car quickly shifted, as I never expected my driver’s past to include spending time at war. “I am actually only a driver to make money while I wait for the U.S government to release my forms so I can become a citizen,” he explained. My thoughts raced as I tried to figure out why he was explaining all this to me. “I am from Iraq, if you haven’t noticed,” he said. “But I love America, and despise the horrors occurring in my home country. I wanted to do everything I could to help defeat those devils in Iraq, so I became a translator for the U.S Military. That is the most underestimated position, you know. We translators are the only ways for the two sides to communicate in a civil manner. Without us, there would be no hope to see and end to this war.”
There, an awkward pause crept into our conversation, as I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I knew little about the current war in Iraq and felt any contributions I had to the conversation would be meaningless. “Thank you for doing that,” I responded, stumbling upon my words. “Did you work all behind the scenes?” He proceeded to explain, in depth, the backgrounds of his adventures and how he was normally the first man to correspond with the angry enemy. He even told me about being honored by high- ranking people in our government, and did not hesitate to pull his 3 badges out of his chest pocket to let me see for proof. I was shocked but impressed that he carried these with him, always.
Our car began to climb the narrow, winding roads of the mountains of Malibu, and it was clear that one mistaken turn of the wheel would end in disaster over the cliffs, but I felt safe with my new friend driving behind the wheel.
I don’t remember his name, and his face is just a foggy memory, but he made a lasting impression on me. I had an urge to learn more about the US government, the current war, and what it took for this man to become a citizen. What will always be clear to me, though, is that his devotion and pride for the United States is unlike anything I have ever encountered.