News: New Marine Immigrates to America from Iraq
Story by Cpl. Pedro Cardenas
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - For most people, immigrating to the United States is a matter of choice. However, Pvt. Ali J. Mohammed and his family were forced to leave their home country and take refuge in another where he found a lifestyle worth fighting for.
Mohammed, Platoon 2134, Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, escaped Iraq under threat to make the United States his home.
Mohammed grew up in Baghdad during the initial surge of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His sister found work as an interpreter for the U.S. military, the Marines in particular. She then moved to the U.S. in 2006 to teach Arabic. Mohammed and the rest of his family, however, remained in Baghdad until 2010. In 2010, Mohammed’s family received a threat letter, with two bullets inside of it, giving the family a 24-hour notice to move away from the city.
“We were being threatened because they knew my sister worked with Marines,” said 20-year-old Mohammed.
They were forced to move away from the city and ultimately, Iraq. As a result of the threat, the family contacted Mohammed’s sister in the U.S. where she applied for a refugee visa for the family to come to the U.S. The 5-month process was approved.
The family arrived in Monterey, Calif., September 2010 and began to adjust to an American lifestyle.
Mohammed struggled while attending school in the U.S. due to the lack of a quality education system in Iraq. According to Mohammed, education in Iraq is very dysfunctional. Teachers don’t show up most of the time and don’t take time to help out students in need. In addition, he had to quit school in Iraq because of the constant danger in the streets of Baghdad.
“It was hard because I didn’t know English or anything in high school,” said Mohammed. “But I got through high school with the help of my teachers.”
Toward the end of his senior year in high school, Mohammed began to speak to a Marine recruiter. He started working a job as a security guard while he waited to ship to recruit training. He enlisted and shipped Nov. 4, 2013.
“I like what the Marine Corps did in Iraq. My uncle and cousin were killed by terrorists,” said Mohammed. “The Marine Corps did the right thing because Iraq wasn’t safe.”
While living in Iraq, Mohammed had his own close encounter with danger. According to Mohammed, one day he was walking home with his friend after school and had walked past several cars on the street. A few minutes later they heard an explosion. One of the cars was a bomb.
“If you went out for any reason you didn’t know if you were going to come back,” said Mohammed. “You were in constant danger.”
According to Mohammed, life in Iraq is oppressed and without freedom because of the sectarian fighting. For Mohammed, the most important aspects of his American life are his freedom and safety.
“I live a good, safe life in America. If you don’t have a safe life you can’t do anything,” said Mohammed. “It’s important to me to serve because I want to become an American citizen.”
When they arrived into the U.S., Mohammed’s family was provided asylum, shelter and food. For Mohammed that is why, for Mohammed, it is important to serve in the Corps; to maintain his new way of life.
“He said all the interactions he had with Marines were positive and he admired them,” said Staff Sgt. Christian A. Fuentes, senior drill instructor. “He is resilient.”
What he saw as a kid gave him a stronger will to complete training and become a Marine,” said 33-year-old Fuentes, a native of Tucson, Ariz. “It shows he has a strong character to want to better himself and his family.”
In the next phase of his training, Mohammed will attend the Marine Combat Training located at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., to learn the skills of a rifleman and, afterward, his military occupational specialty school to become a warehouse clerk.