A photo of Sammy Almolhem
Photo by Marcus Williams

Sammy Almolhem was the recipient of Street Soccer’s award recognizing courage, but where he has shown the most bravery has been persevering off the field. Sectarian militias in Iraq widowed three of his sisters, kidnapped a brother, and killed some of his cousins. Almolhem, still an Iraqi citizen, served the U.S. Army as an interpreter for six years.  

“I dreamed of coming to the U.S. since I was 13,” says Almolhem, now 42. He moved to the U.S. just fifty days ago.  

Working as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Bagdad put him and his family in grave danger. He recalls the decision to accept a dangerous post, “I know I am going to lose my life, but these are my friends now,” he recalls thinking to himself. Almost all of the other interpreters with his unit left rather than accept the danger.  

Some of his neighbors knew he was collaborating with the U.S. military. “If I stayed another night there, I might have been killed,” he said, remembering the tough decision to move his family to Jordan and Lebanon while he lived at the base in Bagdad.  

Almolhem, his wife, and his three daughters are reunited and living in Charlottesville.  

After cutting his chin performing a miraculous diving save, he put his injury into perspective: “With the army we saw lots of blood,” he explained, blood dripping down his jersey. “I used to carry guys on my shoulders,”  

Almolhem is receiving less support than he expected upon arrival, but says he wants to “depend on himself.” He recently interviewed for a job at a hospital.  

To Almolhem, Street Soccer seemed like a natural pastime, “most Iraqi farmers play soccer in the streets.”