By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There are a lot of good stories this time of year about people giving back.

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But the greatest gift this holiday season may be what Twin Cities war veteran Paul Braun gave to an Iraqi man he met while overseas.

The man, known as Phillip, put his life on the line to serve as an interpreter for Braun and his fellow soldiers. He uses the nickname that American soldiers gave him in the interest of protecting his identity.

Braun first met Phillip when he was assigned to the 34th Military Police company in Basra, Iraq in 2009.

At first, Braun was so skeptical of Phillip that he warned him not to mess with his soldiers.

“He immediately started laughing, saying, ‘It’s funny that we have this conversation because some day we will laugh in America while drinking tea,'” Braun said.

It didn’t take long for Phillip to gain the soldiers’ trust, helping them through difficult and dangerous times.

He became one of them, and because interpreters are often executed by insurgents when soldiers leave, Braun promised Phillip he would one day help him get to America.

“You took care of us over there, we’ll take care of you over here,” he said.

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Despite Braun’s efforts, it took three years for the state department to issue Phillip a visa.

When Phillip finally did arrive at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, he had just the clothes on his back.

For his protection, only his wife, children and a few other family members know he’s in the U.S.

“In a few days I will be homesick,” Phillip said. “But now, I’ve got my brother from another mother.”

He’s used to the desert heat in Iraq, but now he’s seeing snow for the first time, combined with temperatures that barely get above zero.

But he’s happy and thankful that his “brother” kept his promise.

“Thanks for God because I met my friends again. And thanks for America,” Phillip said.

Braun is helping Phillip find an apartment and a job.

Phillip says he hopes to go to college and earn a degree.

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And he’s hoping someday soon, his wife and children will be able to join him in Minnesota.

John Lauritsen