Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ali

Ali was a warrior. A tank officer in the Shah's army and was in the United States for advanced armor (tank) training at Fort Knox, KY. The year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was president. I was a young lieutenant company commander and was tasked with being a social sponsor for Ali while he was in the United States. The Shah and the US were great friends and allies. I was briefed by the post protocol officer and told that basically Ali would come here unaccompanied and would require my services to make sure that he had someone to talk to while he was off duty. I was to show him what a Big Mac was and should make his visit memorable.

I was also briefed by the CIA. The Shah's army used M60 tanks that had been specially modified and I had a list of questions to ask about those tanks, on the QT, of course. I was not to let Ali know that I had been briefed by the CIA.

Ali, of course, showed up with a wife and daughter. My first official act was to meet him and his family at the airport, and go directly into OH SHIT! mode trying to get quarters for a wife and toddling daughter of an Iranian officer. Over the next few months I learned a lot about Ali and his family. He had served in combat, in Yemen, "killing communists", as he put it. His wife was the daughter of a prominent General Officer in the Shah's Air Force. His daughter was the apple of his eye.

Ali was a secular Muslim, but much of the culture pervaded his daily life. He was truly shocked when my wife engaged him directly in converstation. I told him to get over it. I was never able to engage his wife in conversation. He told me to get over it. His daughter would climb into my lap and send her mother into palpatations.

We invited them over for Sunday Dinner, and likely as not, I would find Ali's wife at my quarters when I came home from work. She and my wife became good friends and our toddling children were good playmates. I learned to eat curry at Ali's table. His wife, Reha, made an eye-watering, tear-jecking, nose-bleeding curry that was magnificent. She served things like mutton, and rabbit, and hot, sweet tea. We served things like steak, and gumbo, and cold, sweet tea.

Ali was my friend. He and I laughed about kids, and wives, and the differences in our cultures. The time came for him to return home early in 1979. The students there were raising hell and I tried to talk Ali into staying in the US. To declare that he was in danger. He refused, telling me that his duty was to return to Iran. I put him on the plane, waving goodbye to him and his family.

I learned later that Ali made it back to Iran. He and his wife and his toddling daughter were killed by the mullahs shortly after their return.

Ali was a good friend. I toast him occasionally.

1 comment:

we saw that... said...

we really dont know what to say after reading this except to say thanks for sharing this.