From Iraq to Minnesota, a friendship that doesn't need translation

Philip, left, and  Sergeant Paul Braun, in a photo from their days in Iraq.

CBS News

BLAINE, Minn. - His name is Khalid - although everyone calls him Philip.

"Phillip had a really bad smoking habit at the time, and was at one point lighting a cigarette and said you will call me 'Philip Morris,'" said Sergeant Paul Braun.

Sergeant Braun was with the 34th military police company in Iraq. Philip was his interpreter -- a high risk job.

"We looked at Philip and are like, 'You know the militias are going to come after you' and he said 'I already know this I am already marked for death anyways,'" said Sergeant Braun.

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Philip (left) Sergeant Paul Braun (right)
CBS

So when Braun's tour ended he couldn't just abandon Philip. For four years he pushed for a State Department visa. It came through last December.

"I love my country I am proud because I am from Iraq, but it's not a good place to live there now," said Philip.

He arrived at Braun's home in the dead of a Minnesota winter.

Minnesota in December is not like Iraq at any time of year. But Philip brought his own warmth with him.

It was a natural fit for him to work at the White Pine Assisted Living Center. As translator he made seniors feel understood.

One man stopped him on his way to work to thank him for how he cared for his father who had just passed away.

This would all make a nice end to the story of "Philip the translator" and "Paul the soldier."

"And what do you always call me?" asked Braun to Philip. "Brother from another mother," replied Philip.

Except for one thing - it's not over.

Philip is still missing his family. His wife and kids are still in Iraq, which means he will soon make a dangerous trip back to get them.

"It's hard for me to live this good life with good people, and leave my family there," said Philip.

Braun will be a nervous wreck.

Philip is already making plans.

He wants to come back to Minnesota after get gets his family out.

"Don't think about anywhere else in America, basically he's my America," said Philip pointing to Braun.

Then comes the next part of the plan - getting Phillip to stop smoking.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.