Girlfriends from the Battlefield

OPB | April 9, 2008 midnight | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:40 p.m.

An American soldier and an Iraqi translator became friends when the Oregon National Guard was deployed in Iraq. Now both are back in the Northwest, helping each other navigate the personal upheaval they’ve experienced since leaving Iraq.

All day Tuesday, Senators on two powerful committees heard about the situation in Iraq through well practiced and thoroughly vetted testimony by the top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker.Today they’ll do the same thing in front of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees.

We’re offering another view. This is the story of two women who got to know each other in Iraq. There they faced combat, threats and personal upheaval. Now, here in the Northwest, help each other navigate the aftermath of that experience.

One is former Staff Sergeant Rebekah-Mae Bruns, who deployed with the 2nd Battalion 162nd Infantry Oregon National Guard to Iraq for a year. She was attached to the 39th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs staff. During her time there she met an interpreter who, when she tells her story in public, uses a pseudonym.

Many translators put their lives at risk to work for the US military in Iraq — they are often targeted as traitors, threatened and killed. They’ve had difficulty trying to come to the US, even after a special visa program was set up. In Oregon, groups like the Checkpoint One Foundation work to bring former translators here.

The interpreter we’ll hear from came here before there was any special program for translators. All she had going for her was the determination of her friend Rebekah-Mae Bruns. For the former staff sergeant, bringing her friend here became an obsession that helped drive away other demons that haunted her after Iraq. If there was one good thing that came out of Iraq, says Bruns, it was “getting to see her in the flesh” again.

Although they share a great deal, they come from very different backgrounds. What would you like to hear these two friends talk about? Do you have close relationships based on a unique, specific shared experience? How are they different from your other relationships?

If you’ve worked in Iraq, we’d love to hear from you too. What were you doing there? Did you try to bring any of the Iraqis you worked with there here? Are you an Iraqi who moved to the US since the start of the war? What has your experience been?

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