Clicky
Modal close

Dear Democracy Now! visitor,

You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. Democracy Now! is different because we don't accept government or advertising dollars—we count on you, our global audience, to fund our work.Right now, all donations to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous donor. Pretty amazing, right? It just takes a few minutes to make sure Democracy Now! is there for you and everyone else in 2018.

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.

Donate

StoryCorps Veterans Day Special: The Unlikely Bond Between a U.S. Soldier & Two Iraqi Boys

StoryNovember 11, 2014
Watch iconWatch Full Show
Listen
Media Options
Listen

On Veterans Day, we broadcast the voice of a veteran recorded with StoryCorps, the award-winning national social history project. Two years ago, StoryCorps launched the Military Voices Initiative recording the stories of post-9/11 military veterans and their families. And this Veterans Day, StoryCorps is releasing a series of animations and a radio special based on these interviews. We broadcast one of those stories stories told by Spc. Justin Cliburn, who deployed to Iraq with the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 2005. While serving in Baghdad, Cliburn formed an unlikely friendship with two Iraqi boys who lived nearby. Cliburn speaks with his wife, Deanne, about the lasting impression the boys left on his life.

Related Story

Video squareWeb ExclusiveJan 12, 2017Part 2: Gen. James Mattis’s Role in Fallujah & Haditha Massacre, Views on Women & LGBT in Military
Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end this Veterans Day broadcast with StoryCorps, the award-winning national social history project, the largest oral history project in the United States. Two years ago, StoryCorps launched the Military Voices Initiative, recording the stories of post-9/11 military veterans and their families. And this Veterans Day, StoryCorps is releasing a series of animations and a radio special based on these interviews.

The story you’re about to hear features Specialist Justin Cliburn, who deployed to Iraq with the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 2005. While serving in Baghdad, Cliburn formed an unlikely friendship with two Iraqi boys who lived nearby. Justin speaks with his wife, Deanne, about the lasting impression the boys left on his life.

JUSTIN CLIBURN: One day, we saw this child walking through the compound. His name was Ali, and he did not want to talk to us.

DEANNE CLIBURN: As opposed to a lot of the other Iraqi kids that you encountered.

JUSTIN CLIBURN: Yes. He was very shy. And the second or third time that I met him, he brought his best friend, Ahmed. And Ahmed was much more outgoing. And so, Ali really opened up. And once I met these children, it made every day something I looked forward to.

We would play rock, paper, scissors. We would kick around a soccer ball. We were about as close as people that don’t speak the same language can be. I had never been really good with children, and this was the first time I felt like I loved someone who wasn’t my family member.

But one day Ali showed up, and I could tell something wasn’t right. He kept saying, “Ahmed, Ahmed…boom.” We learned that Ahmed and his mother went to the gas station, and a suicide bomber detonated. Ahmed’s mother is dead. She died instantly. And Ahmed is in a hospital somewhere.

And so, other soldiers and I collected what cash we had and gave it to Ali and said, “Go take this to Ahmed’s father.” But later, I saw Ali walking up very slow, and he sat down on the curb next to my Humvee. He dug a hole in the ground with his fingers. He picked up a rock and put it in the hole, and then he put the dirt back over it. And he just pointed to the ground and said, “Ahmed.” And I knew that Ahmed was dead. And so I sat on the curb with him—me in desert camouflage, carrying an M4 rifle, and him just a North Baghdad kid. Just sat there and cried.

I don’t know what came of him. That’s the nature of war, I suppose. But whenever I see any footage from Baghdad, I’m always kind of looking around, wondering if he’s in the frame.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Specialist Justin Cliburn speaking to his wife, Deanne, just one of the many stories featured in the Military Voices Initiative by StoryCorps this Veterans Day, releasing this series of animations and a radio special based on these interviews.

And that does it for our broadcast. For all our interviews with Tomas Young, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Also, we are posting online at democracynow.org part two of our interview with Matthew Hoh. He is the former Marine Corps company commander in Iraq who was the highest-level State Department official to quit over the war in Afghanistan. He talks about dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Go to our website to see this interview at democracynow.org.

On Thursday, I’ll be speaking in Maplewood, New Jersey, at Columbia High School Auditorium at 7:30. On Saturday, I’ll be in Berlin, Germany, Campact’s 10th anniversary. Check our website.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Up Next

Part 2: Gen. James Mattis’s Role in Fallujah & Haditha Massacre, Views on Women & LGBT in Military

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.

Make a donation
Up arrowTop