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Wounded soldier, a new U.S. citizen, receives Purple Heart
Sierra Vista Herald/Bisbee Review ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 02/21/2008 5:12:25 PM PST by SandRat

FORT HUACHUCA — He has only been an American citizen since January, but Spc. Charles has proven himself a steadfast solider.

That was proven Wednesday when Maj. Gen. John Custer, commander of the Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca, presented Charles a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in Iraq last year.

Charles — his first name — is all that can be used to identify the soldier. He is an Arabic translator who was born in Sudan and lived for a while as a refugee in Ethiopia. No photos of translators born in other nations serving in the U.S. Army are allowed due to security concerns that those serving may be identified, putting them and their families in danger.

The soldier, whose Sudanese wife also became a citizen in January, and their four children, all American-born, stood before a number of people as Custer spoke.

Custer said Charles is willing to serve the country as a translator, and he and his family “want to be part of it (the U.S.).”

Charles could have gone the route of many other translators by working for contractors and making a lot of money, Custer said. But he decided to “wear the uniform.”

He is one of a number of “Zero Nine Limas, translators” who are serving in the Army and are stationed at the fort, providing the Arabic skills that are needed now and will be required for the next three decades, Custer said.

“What a great family, what a great American,” the general said of Charles and his wife and children.

Holding up the soldier’s oldest son, Loro, the general helped the boy pin the Purple Heart on his dad’s uniform.

Charles is a member of the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center’s Warrior Transition Unit, a company where soldiers who are wounded in combat or suffer other injuries recuperate, either to return to military service or get prepared for re-entry into the civilian world.

After the ceremony, a beaming Charles said he entered the United States in 1997 as a refugee sponsored by the YMCA.

A civil war in his homeland forced him to flee to a U.N. refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he waited for a sponsor to support him in the United States.

After graduating from high school in the Sudan, he was expected to join the Sudanese Army, which was engaged in a no-holds barred civil war, Charles said. That was not what he wanted for his life.

After coming to America, he eventually decided military service was for him, especially in the U.S. Army, and he enlisted in June 2006.

“I felt I had to serve the country and the Army was the best way,” Charles said.

In January 2007, he came to the fort and soon deployed for a one-year assignment in Iraq, working with a combat engineer unit as a translator.

Charles received is wounds during a mission to open a new road. When an improvised explosive device went off, he suffered broken bones in an arm and a broken collarbone.

He was in the fourth vehicle of a convoy on the mission when the people in the lead Humvee called to say the road was blocked.

The platoon leader was in the vehicle Charles was in, and he directed the driver to go to the head of the convoy.

When the officer saw the problem, the officer ordered the convoy to turn around.

That’s when the blast occurred, of which the soldier said about the only thing he could remember was a “loud boom.”

The blast killed the driver and the first lieutenant.

“When I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital,” he said.

He has had two surgeries and is expecting more before his wounds are fixed.

At the ceremony, soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit and fellow translators who are part of the Intelligence Center were in attendance.

Charles was presented a one-year membership in the Carroll Fyffe chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Saying he saw a photo of the aftermath of the explosion and what it did to the vehicle, the soldier shook his head and said, “I don’t know why I am still alive.”

The first purple hearts

What is now known as the Purple Heart Medal, given to members of the American armed forces, was established in 1782.

Considered the most beautiful of American military decoration, with a purple heart in which a profile of George Washington in gold is inset, the medal traces its origins back to Washington, when he established the Badge of Military Merit, a cloth purple heart with the word merit on it.

Only three of the special awards were presented, all to enlisted soldiers from Connecticut, who served during the Revolutionary War.

They were presented by Washington at his headquarters in Newburgh, N.Y., at two ceremonies in 1783.

Those who were presented the cloth badge of military merit, in alphabetical order, were:

• Sgt. Daniel Bissell of the 2nd Regiment of the Connecticut Line for posing as a deserter in New York City where he obtained and passed information on to Washington personally about the British forces.

• Sgt. William Brown of the 5th Regiment of the Connecticut Line for leading a “forlorn hope,” which usually meant suicide mission, in storming one of the British redoubts at Yorktown, which eventually caused the enemy forces to surrender.

• Sgt. Elijah Churchill, of the Second Continental Dragoons, who was instrumental in overcoming forces at two British forts during two days in November 1780.

Only one of the original badges is known to exist and it is kept at a museum at the New Windsor, N.Y. Cantonment of the Revolutionary Army, which is not far from Washington’s headquarters in Newburgh.

herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; US: Arizona; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: citizen; iraq; naturalization; purpleheart; wia; wounded

1 posted on 02/21/2008 5:12:27 PM PST by SandRat
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To: SandRat

Sounds like a good man and exactly the kind of immigrant we need.

2 posted on 02/21/2008 5:14:38 PM PST by cripplecreek (Just call me M.O.M. (Maverick Opposed to McCain.))
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To: SandRat

“A civil war in his homeland forced him to flee to a U.N. refugee camp
in Ethiopia, where he waited for a sponsor to support him in the
United States.”

Sounds like one of “The Lost Boys” that have been brought here by
various charities.
They were profiled with a couple of documentary specials on NBC DateLine
before and one soon after 9-11.

3 posted on 02/21/2008 5:17:44 PM PST by VOA
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“Sounds like one of “The Lost Boys” that have been brought here by
various charities.”

One of my sisters worked with those boys. It does indeed sound like “Charles” may be one. Whoever he is, he has honored himself and his family by his sacrifice for his and our country! I remember how proud my immigrant grandfather was of his service to America in France during WWI.

4 posted on 02/21/2008 5:28:27 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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