Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In 1978 I was commanding a company at Fort Knox, KY. Delta Company, First Battalion, Fourth Brigade. It was a training company, and I was a First Lieutenant, my silver bar new on my collar. I was approached by the Armor school to be the social sponsor for a visiting foreign officer. My job was to be a local friend for this officer, who would be attending the Armor Officer Advanced Course and assist him in learning about the culture and history of the United States. "Show him what a Big Mac tastes like. Take him to K-Mart, then take him into Louisville and let him see some sights."

His name was Ali, and he'd be traveling unaccompanied by dependents. He'd be flying in on such and such a date. "Meet him at the airport and take him to the BOQ. His name is Ali and he's an officer from the Shah's army."

Of course, when I got to the airport and met the flight, he was accompanied by a wife and daughter. Ali was tall and fit. He towered over my 5'10" frame by several inches. His wife, Rahe, was small, slim, exotic with dark hair and eyes. She was a beauty. The daughter, Reha, was a toddler who looked exactly like her mother.

I scurried about trying to ease his transition and get him settled in to family quarters. He was assigned an apartment in the "ups and downs", a 2 bedroom townhouse unit not far from where I lived with my wife and son.

Over the course of the next several months Ali and I became fast friends. His family was a guest in my home and my family shared meals at his home. His wife, Rahe, was reserved and quiet and came after several months and much prodding from my wife, to participate in discussions around the dinner table. Ali came to understand that my wife would NOT be quiet at the table. She would participate and that the the proper role of an American wife was to engage all visitors in conversation, to ask questions, to stimulate conversation and to make all feel welcome. To say that Ali was taken aback by American women was an understatement. He would remark, "Your American wife is teaching my Persian wife dangerous thoughts."

Ali considered himself Persian, not Arabic, and his friendship and the questions and answers sessions we had gave me as much insight into the country of Iran as I possess. I came to value the quiet talks we had over coffee. I think that at Rahe's table was the first time I had eaten mutton. She served it as a savory stew with spices and brown rice with nuts. Wonderful. They ate a lot of dates, served both as an appetizer and as a side dish. Ali absolutely loved almonds. I remember them being a constant fixture in his quarters.

In late 1978 it was becoming apparent that Iran was undergoing a dramatic political change. I talked with Ali about staying in the United States. He was a combat veteran, a trained Armor officer. I talked with the State Department liaison and learned that Ali could claim asylum and over the course of several months could join our Army. He and I discussed it privately several times and he rejected the idea out-of-hand. He felt that he had a duty to return to Iran and fight against the hard-line mullah's who were threatening his country. He left the United States just before Christmas, 1978. On January 16, 1979 the Shah abandoned his people and darkness descended on Iran.

A few month later I made discreet inquiries and was told that Ali was probably killed shortly after the Ayatollahs took over. I never heard the fate of his lovely wife, or his precious daughter.

Ali had told me that his hometown, and the hometown of his wife, was a place called Tabriz. I was reading Instapundit this morning and learned that Tabriz is one of the places where the people are protesting the recent voting irregularities. When ever I hear of Tabriz I think of Ali and his lovely wife.

I hope the people of Tabriz love Iran as much as Ali loved it.


Old NFO said...

One can only hope Pawpaw... I flew out of Bandar in the mid-70's and the folks there were just as proud of their country as we were of ours. Not all of them were the Shah's relatives, many were working class folks who had made good in the Air Force...

dw said...

ungghh. Right in the gut, Paw Paw.

NFO, we used to bait and track F4's out of Bandar Abbas in the mid and late 80's when they were lighting us up with Silkworms and messing with the straits. Poor guys. All probably still US trained at that time, all probably with friends in the States. Knew what they were flying into against E2-C's, F-14's.

We could see their AWG-9's warming on deck, watch them roll up to speed (couple times even had a cocky/bored CICO call airspeed out on 243.00 and then "rotate" as they crossed 120kts).

Deadmen flying...

Old NFO said...

Hell DW, I WAS the bait in the late 80's... sigh...

And yes I remember those games and the ones off Libya.

www.requiemforarepublic.com said...

Great post. Sorry about your friend and his family. As always the liberals painted the Shah as the villan and the mullah's as the peoples choice. What crap. The consequences of liberal policy (Carter's)go on and on.