In a series of tweets, Iraq War veteran J.R. Salzman, who lost an arm in the war, told a moving story Wednesday about a cab ride from the Dallas airport to his hotel in the taxi of a Kurdish refugee from Iraq. The gratitude from the taxi driver to the brave American soldier is a powerful reminder of why the war meant so much to so many.
The series of tweets read:
I am constantly amazed at the circumstances that evolve in life, and events that transpire, such as my cab ride tonight. I just flew to Dallas, Texas for business reasons. When my hotel shuttle failed to pick me up due to my delayed flight, I had to get a cab. My cab driver spoke broken English, like most I’ve had around the country. After figuring out my hotel address, we were on our way.
My conversation with my cab driver hit all the usual points. How cold it is in the Midwest, changes in weather, and the Texas summer heat. Eventually my cabdriver asked about my missing arm. I told him I lost it in Iraq. He asked which city, and how I lost it. I said Baghdad. I told him I was blown up by an Iranian weapons expert, using an Iranian shape charge. He stopped talking after that.
After a couple of minutes of silence, I asked him if he would mind telling me where he was from. He choked out the words, “I’m a Kurd.” His voice cracked as he said, “I can’t look at you and your arm or I will start crying. I am forever grateful for what you have done for us.” His family fled from Northern Iraq and lived in Iran for 10 years due to the turmoil in the Middle East.
He said, don’t pay attention to what’s being said in the media. There is not an Iraqi who’s not happy to see Saddam gone. He then went on to elaborate on all of those who had been killed by Saddam. Siblings, cousins, even the dog.
He kept reiterating how grateful he was for those who sacrificed to get rid of Saddam as he tried to keep it together and not cry.
I asked if he has been back to Iraq since, and he said yes. The Kurds in Northern Iraq are prospering now that Saddam is gone.
Eventually he turned and said, this cab ride is free. And I want to pay for your hotel room. I am so grateful for what you’ve done, I insisted on paying for my cab, and he refused. I made up an excuse about my hotel room so he wouldn’t pay for it.
After a lot of banter, I conceded to the free cab ride, but I was going to pay for my own hotel room, despite his insistence. I asked if he plans on returning to Iraq, and he said he would if he did not have children in the American school system.
The whole time had had to struggle to keep it together and not break down crying when he saw my arm and heard of my sacrifice. Eventually we pulled up to my hotel, and I insisted one last time that I pay for my own hotel because I was here on business.