116 U.S. VETERANS MAGAZINE WWW.USVETERANSMAGAZINE.COM
WOMEN & DIVERSE VETERANS
Me and my family's life was hell from childhood to when we left Iraq. We were always running from place to place because we were actively hunted by Al-Qaeda.
e honest with yourself. Do you or those you love take freedom for granted? In todays society, we care more about likes on Instagram or TikTok than about what we are going to have for dinner, for the most part. Despite all of our problems, we are still a nation of plenty. Imagine for a moment being born into a world of chaos, fear and tyranny. Every day becomes a struggle to stay alive by any means necessary. The interview to follow of Johnny Walker truly captures the essence of coming from darkness into the light of freedom. Johnny Walker is the only Iraqi interpreter to serve with U.S. Special Forces, be
From Darkness to the Light of Freedom'
The Story of "Johnny Walker"
By Paul Peng
given a Navy SEAL Trident and receive the honorary title of Navy SEAL. Here is his story.
What was your life like before the invasion of U.S. forces under Saddam Hussein? What did you do?
[I was] born and raised in Mosul, Iraq, as a part of a relatively poor family. I loved guns and slingshots as a kid and played with them in secret because my neighbors complained that I was attacking their livestock with them. My family thought the best option for me was basketball to get me to stop being a nuisance. I found myself and who I am through basketball and the team environment that came with it. It led me to admire the Harlem Globetrotters and John Wayne movies. During the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s, I watched Iraq slowly become a dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. In Iraq, military service was mandatory. I joined the Army from 1987- 1991 as a PT coach and played military basketball just to avoid active service. I met and married my wife in 1990. After the service, my family and I struggled financiallybadly. So, I did what I had to do to put food on the table.
Jason Tuschen (L) and "Johnny Walker" formed a deep friendship through their work together.
How did you get linked up with the Special Forces community while serving as an interpreter?
I became an interpreter in 2003. Everyone wanted to work with Americans because they were seen as liberators at the time. I did everything I could to get the job because I had no money. I remember walking seven miles to my interview just to not get hired. At that moment, I had 50 cents (500 dinars) to my name; that's it. I ran into a group of U.S. military policemen on my way home and helped them solve an issue with some Iraqi women. From there, they asked me to work with them. We did a lot of crazy missions together, and through these, I was able to build a bond with the military police unit. At the time, the SEALS were looking for a crazy local interpreter, and Sgt East recommended me.
What was it like working with Chris Kyle and Jason Tuschen?
They were cool as f*** and professional warriors. Chris Kyle was a great human being and cared about his teammates, always wanting to do the right
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