'Oprah' Loving Iraqi Interpreter Seeks U.S. Home

ByABC News
February 14, 2007, 8:05 PM

Feb. 14, 2007 — -- "Opie" -- a 22-year-old with a baby face and a soft voice -- was horribly injured by a roadside bomb while helping the United States. Now he wants the United States to help him.

"Opie" was injured in a roadside attack last year while performing one of the most dangerous jobs in all of Iraq -- interpreting for the U.S. military.

Interpreters are at particular risk in their country, as not only do they face the dangers of war but are deemed traitors and collaborators by the insurgency. We can't use "Opie's" real name in this story, because it could put him and his family in real danger.

The troops nicknamed him "Opie" because of his fondness for "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which he watched in Iraq on satellite TV.

"She talks about everything," he said. "She helps many people."

He signed up with the U.S. military as an interpreter shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003, he said, because he needed the money and believed in what the military was trying to do for his country.

"I want, when I'm married and I have kids, that they'll have a good life," he said. "No bombs and dead bodies on the street. I want peace -- to live in peace."

"Opie's" dreams of peace have left him in a difficult situation.

Last July, while out on a patrol, he stepped on a roadside bomb. "I saw dark, and I felt myself flying through the air," he said. "When I woke up I asked myself, 'What happened? Am I dying?'"

"Opie" lost his right leg and part of his left in the attack. He also lost several fingers -- and his skin was left covered in burns and embedded with shrapnel.

After the attack, like dozens of other injured Iraqi interpreters, "Opie" was sent to neighboring Jordan for medical care.

He's recovering well, but now faces a fresh set of problems. The Jordanian government does not allow Iraqi interpreters to stay in the country after their medical treatment is completed. But if they go home, their lives are in danger.

Insurgents look at interpreters as collaborators, and scores of interpreters have been assassinated.