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Iraqi Interpreter Settles In To New Life In Minn.

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After years of living in a war-torn country, an Iraqi man is starting a new life in Minnesota with the help of some American soldiers he met overseas.

Twelve days ago, Khalid, known by American soldiers as “Phillip,” arrived in the Twin Cities.

“Twelve days without any check points. Nobody asks me where I’m going, you know, all the security stuff. And you feel safe,” Khalid said. “The first three, four days [it] was exciting. First time to see snow, you know. All this nice weather, but now, I feel cold.”

The weather’s rough, but the reception has been warm.

When Phillip arrived a week ago Monday, he went from 100-plus degree temperatures in Iraq to temps that barely get above zero. He now checks the weather on his phone every few minutes.

“I programmed my phone to Celsius to understand that,” he said.

Khalid worked as an interpreter for Paul Braun and his fellow soldiers while they were serving in Iraq. Braun says Khalid risked his life for them.

To pay him back, they have worked the past three years to make his dream of moving to America a reality.

“A lot of people, they offer to me jobs. A lot of people offer [to] send money or something like that and a lot of kinds of help,” he said. “And that makes me feel good, like I’m still in my home.”

But in so many ways he’s starting over. He’s got a social security number now, and is working on getting his license, a job and eventually his own place.

Until he came here, he’d never used a microwave. And on Thursday, Khalid went snowmobiling for the very first time.

“It was awesome, man. Yeah, really it was awesome, like, there is snow and you drive over the snow with this snowmobile. This made me feel good,” he said.

But a big part of Khalid’s heart is still with his family in Iraq. And his dream is for his wife and children to someday follow his path to America.

“I miss them and I send a lot of pictures to my family to show them how’s the life here, and I can’t wait till they come here. You know, I’m working to bring them here,” he said.

After our first story on Khalid last Monday, WCCO received a lot of emails from people wondering how they could help him, including a staffing agency who offered to help find him a job.

He thinks he can find work as an interpreter. Until he gets his own place, he’s staying with Braun.

Khalid says his village would get about 10 hours of electricity a day.

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