To the gallant paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne, Iraqi translator Hayder Hazim was a brother from the get-go. When they rolled out on their 4 a.m. patrols with the sound of Christina Aguilera blasting from the lead Humvee, Hazim rolled with them. And when he realized it was their only tape, the rap-loving Iraqi gave them Jay-Z, Akon, Fergie and Rihanna—a gesture that earned him the affectionate nickname “Homeboy.”
Of course, loyalty to Americans can be dangerous in Iraq. Still, even after anti-American extremists looted his house and tried to assassinate him, Hazim stuck by his friends in the 82nd.
One August night in 2003, Company C, 1st Battalion, was scheduled to train some new Iraqi police officers. On the way to the police station, a car bomb exploded in front of their convoy. The soldiers called in medical support, secured the road, picked up the trainees and headed on toward Dora, Baghdad’s most violent neighborhood.
There was another explosion. Bullets pelted like hard rain. A wounded U.S. sergeant tumbled from a Humvee, and Hazim began dragging him to safety. Then he, too, was hit.