Photo Information

Marine Corps poolee Zaid Alithawi conducts pull ups at his local recruiter's office in Fargo, Minn. Alithawi was born in Iraq and helped U.S. forces with translating as a teenager. Since then he has dreamed of becoming a U.S. Marine. After moving to America and enlisting out of Marine Corps Recruiting Station Twin Cities, he departed for Marine Corps Recruit Training, March 4.

Photo by Cpl. Martin Egnash

Iraqi translator follows dream of joining the Marine Corps

5 Mar 2014 | Cpl. Martin Egnash 9th Marine Corps District

Zaid Alithawi was born and raised in Baghdad. Shortly after he turned 14, he began studying English. In 2004 he started translating for the U.S. forces in Iraq. This began Alithawi’s long journey to become a United States Marine.

“At some point, the Marines came to my town,” said Alithawi. “I was so impressed with how they acted and how they helped us that I swore I would join the Marines one day.”

While he helped U.S. forces translate, he witnessed hospitals being rebuilt and wells being dug for the locals.

“For a 14 year old kid, being a part of all of that was really cool,” said Alithawi. “I never forgot about them.”

In 2006, Alithawi’s home was in a ‘red zone area’, meaning it was too dangerous for him to help the Americans. Shortly after, the Marines cleared his neighborhood.

“When the Marines came in, they cleared our area of all (insurgents),” said Alithawi. “It was amazing. The Marines are great at that.”

Alithawi moved to the U.S. on refugee status after living in Syria for a brief time. After living in the U.S. for three years, he now considers it his home.

“I love living in America,” said Alithawi. “I went back to Iraq to visit family once. But as soon as I landed, I knew I wanted to get back home to America. I belong in the Marines, not there.”

Alithawi departed for Marine Basic Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, March 4.

“I know that Zaid will make a great Marine because he has the drive to do it,” said his recruiter Sgt. Geoffrey Porter of Marine Corps Recruit Sub Station Fargo. “He has overcome a lot in his life to be where he is, so he has more appreciation for what he has. He is the type who will maintain the discipline and do what is asked of him immediately. He has always had a positive attitude towards everything and never lets the small stuff get him down.”

In 13 weeks, if Alithawi continues to work hard and do all that is asked of him, his dreams of becoming a United States Marine will come true.

9th Marine Corps District