Blake Hall, an Army Ranger, led a reconnaissance platoon in Iraq for 15 months from 2006 to 2007. He is the founder and chief executive of Troop ID, an online service to verify military affiliation.
I wired $1,000 to a woman in Iraq on New Year’s Eve. I sent it to repay part of a debt that I, and my country, will always owe. As I looked down at the $100 bills, stacked in two piles on the counter of a Western Union in McLean, I was overwhelmed by my inability to do more for this woman. There is no amount of money that can compensate a mother for the loss of her oldest son.
His name was Mohammed; we called him Roy to protect his identity while he accompanied my platoon of scouts and snipers on combat patrols in Baghdad from December 2006 to September 2007. Roy, a mere teenager at the time, was our interpreter — and a highly skilled one. He questioned insurgent leaders we had captured; he served as my eyes and ears among the local population; he was like a younger brother to me and the scout team leader responsible for him. Roy died in a house bombing in Diyala province in January 2008 along with sixAmerican soldiers from the platoon that replaced mine in Iraq. I cry every time I write that sentence, just like I cried the first time I spoke with his mom.