“Climbing The American Dream Ladder”: The Sons Of An Iraqi Interpreter Achieve Success At West Point

Sahm & Fahad Abdulrazzaq


Sahm and Fahad Abdulrazzaq grew up in the Zayouna neighborhood in Baghdad. Sahm was born in 1999, and Fahad in 2001. Their father, a Veterinarian, and mother, a bank administrator, met in college. Their grandfather had attended the Iraqi Military Academy in the 1950s, served in Armor, and became a General. In 2003, when the US invasion of Iraq began, their house was bombed by American forces; fortunately, their father was down the street taking with a neighbor, and their mother was in the basement with her sons. Growing up, the boys interacted with American Soldiers in the streets, and their father became an interpreter. Sahm and Fahad recall the occupation “getting serious” around 2005-2006, and moving to Syria with their paternal grandparents. Six months later, the family was approved for a US visa. Within a few days they returned to Baghdad from Syria before flying to Jordan, where they waited for approval to travel to the United States. The family ended up in Springfield, Virginia, (later Groveton, Virginia), where they had to find lodging and a job. They started with a one-room basement apartment. Sahm and Fahad remember their first day of school in America and the challenge of learning English. Step by step, the family’s situation improved. Eventually they purchased a car and later moved to a townhome in Woodbridge, Virginia. For Sahm, his path to success was through the wrestling team, where he became an All-State wrestler. Fahad focused on academics, became class president, and excelled in JROTC. Sahm was appointed to the United States Military Academy Prep School (USMAPS) and tried out for the West Point wrestling team. Fahad went to Georgia Military College, a prep school. At West Point, he joined the boxing team. Fahad reported to West Point during the first summer of COVID-19 and on R-Day he tested positive for the virus. He was immediately sent to “Q Company” (the Quarantine Company) and completed R-Day (including reporting to the Cadet in the Red Sash) under strict COVID protocols. After 10 days living in the quarantine barracks, he rejoined the rest of his class, and he found his roommates very welcoming. Some highlights of the brothers’ experiences at West Point include learning life lessons on the wrestling team, beating Air Force in boxing, serving as a Company First Sergeant, and visiting Israel on an AIAD. Sahm and Fahad earned their citizenship, but note, “I didn’t need a piece of paper telling me I’m an American.” At the end of the interview, they reflect on what West Point means to them, identifying it as the American Dream and the possibility of serving others.


conflicts Iraq War
topics West Point History Army Athletics Leadership Camaraderie Immigration Character
interviewer David Siry
date 13 April 2023


name Sahm & Fahad Abdulrazzaq
institution USMA
graduation year 2023 & 2024
specialty Iraqi Immigrants