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Baghdad born, U.S. proud - U.S. Airman traces roots to capital of Iraq

Air Force Airman 1st Class Murad Mohiadeen's story crosses two continents and spans more than 7,500 miles. It began with his birth in Iraq 20 years ago and continues today as the story of an American airman who is part of the coalition's efforts to win the peace in Iraq.

Mohiadeen was born in Baghdad in 1988. His father, a Muslim, owned a small shoe company and his mother, a Christian, stayed home to raise him and his brother. The family was financially comfortable, but something was missing.

"They wanted freedom. There was no freedom there," Mohiadeen said.

So the family emigrated from Iraq in 1990.

"We just wanted a new life," Mohiadeen said. "Life was pretty hard when Saddam [Hussein] was in power."

Mohiadeen's family spent two years traveling through Jordan, Turkey and Germany before finally arriving in the United States. The voyage eroded most of the family's savings, but the trip was worth the cost.

"Our family wanted freedom," Mohiadeen said. "There's freedom in the United States. It was like (we were) trading money for freedom, but if we had to do it again, it would still be worth it."

He lived with his family in Los Angeles for several years and later moved to Portland, Ore. When the United States began Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, his parents became linguists.

"When the war kicked off, my parents saw an opportunity to help out and give back to the United States," he said. "They've both been to (Joint Base) Balad, and my mom just came back from Bucca, Iraq. God bless her soul."

As a Muslim, Mohiadeen is concerned by the actions of terrorists, who he said he believes do not act in accordance with Muslim beliefs.

"They say, 'Allah wants people dead.' There's nothing like that written," he said. "That's not a part of the faith I grew up with."

He joined the Air Force a year and a half ago to travel, get a college education and represent the Iraqi people. "I wanted people to understand," he said. "I try to do good things so when people think of me, they think better of all Iraqi people," he said.

One of the people with whom Mohiadeen has made a good impression is Air Force Maj. Scott Spiers, the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander. "I was out on post checks when I met Airman Mohiadeen," said Spiers, who is deployed from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. "I noticed his name and asked where he was from, and he said, 'Baghdad.'"

Mohiadeen shared the story of his family's journey to the United States with Spiers. "I thought it was a great story," the major said. "I think it's really cool to see people who have immigrated to the United States serving their country, especially when it means coming back to their homeland."

Mohiadeen is one of about 30 security forces airmen deployed from Royal Air Force Station Lakenheath, England.

"He's a great man," said Airman 1st Class Arturo Rivero, a Pittsburgh native who also is deployed from RAF Lakenheath. "I didn't know him all that well back at our home station because we worked different shifts, but we've developed a good friendship since we've been over here. Deployment creates a bond between airmen."

Mohiadeen volunteers regularly as a translator at the Air Force Theater Hospital here and said he wants to cross-train to become an Arabic linguist.

"I love using my language to help people," he said. "I don't want to forget my roots; I want to do something to help people."

"He's been a good liaison between us and local nationals, which is a great thing as we try to win hearts and minds," Spiers said.

The happy ending for Mohiadeen's story would include peace for the people of Iraq. "I want Iraq to be a better place," he said. "I want Iraq to have peace again."

To the Iraqi people, he said, "God bless you and stay strong."

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