for HSLDA members
Second HSLDA Essay Contest Better Than Ever

Category 1 Second Place

Saving Private Lynch

By Colin Azariah-Kribbs

The sky was growing dark in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah when 33-year-old Mohammed Odeh Al-Rehaief went to meet his wife at the Saddam Hospital where she worked as a nurse. He was soon granted admittance into the hospital by a security guard, and made his way down the long hallways.

As he passed the hospital rooms, he glanced into one and was surprised to see someone wearing a U.S. soldier's uniform. He was even more surprised to see that the soldier was a young girl and that a guard was cruelly slapping her. Realizing the girl was an American soldier, Al-Rehaief knew she must have been recently captured and was now being interrogated. He knew about the horrible ways that Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, and his men terrorized and tortured people routinely. In fact, the U.S. was at war with Saddam's regime because it supported terrorism in the world at large.

Al-Rehaief looked around for his wife or at least one of her co-workers. Recognizing a doctor, Al-Rehaief hurried over to him.

The doctor explained to Al-Rehaief that an American military supply team had been ambushed the day before and that the girl was probably a prisoner. When Al-Rehaief tried to ask more questions, the doctor avoided him and hurried away, afraid to give more information.

The sight of the girl being so cruelly treated disturbed Al-Rehaief. He could find a way to help but he had a responsibility to his family and didn't have time to worry about an American girl who wasn't even a Muslim like him. Furthermore, as an Iraqi lawyer, he knew that even the smallest crimes were severely punished by Saddam's agents.

But then a thought came to him: what if his own five-year-old daughter were in the same kind of danger? And what if someone like him turned away and failed to help? The questions were disturbing. He knew that somewhere in America there was a father who was worrying about this girl. In that moment Al-Rehaief decided that it was up to him to do something, no matter what the risk to his own life was.

In the dark of night Al-Rehaief journeyed many miles from Nasiriyah to where the U.S. Marines were camped outside the city. This route took him through dangerous territory, so treacherous that it was known as "ambush alley." When Al-Rehaief made it to the Marines and gave his information regarding the prisoner of war, the officers asked him for more information such as how many security guards there were and how they were armed.

The request meant another trip to the hospital and thus another trip down "ambush alley." Al-Rehaief had taken a risk already in coming to the U.S. Marines. To take another trip would double his chances of being suspected by one of Saddam Hussein's secret police. But despite his fears, Al-Rehaief went back to the Saddam Hospital not once, but many times, mapping out locations and providing details that would help the Marines in their rescue operation. Once he was severely wounded, but he managed to get his information to the Marines.

Finally, Al-Rehaief's efforts paid off. On April 1st, 2003, U.S. Marines stormed the hospital, rescuing twenty-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch of the 507th Maintenance Company convoy. Her family in Palestine, West Virginia, had been waiting since March 23rd for news of Jessica.

For a while, Al-Rehaief was known in news accounts only as "Mohammed" to protect the safety of himself and his family while they were in Iraq. They arrived in America soon after the Department of Homeland Security granted them "humanitarian parole," primarily to prevent retaliation from the dying Iraqi regime.

Risking all manner of peril, Al-Rehaief had ignored racial and religious differences and the fear of torture, seeing only that a defenseless young girl was being treated unfairly. He had chosen to help a stranger, risking his own life and that of his family. If I were given $50,000 today, I would give it to this man, who compassionately put another's needs before his own, to help him begin his new life in America.