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'Lost Boy' of Sudan Served U.S. in Iraq


We asked Captain Moses to our studios to hear more of his story.

DAVID MOSES: When we left Sudan we were still, you know, trying to hide from the government soldiers. And of course we have to worry about the wild animals. But I had many, many other boys who were also in the same situation, and so we were able to encourage each other until we reached our destination - the refugee camp in Kenya.


MONTAGNE: You spent that time in a refugee camp in Kenya and then came to the U.S. as a refugee, ended up South Dakota. What did you think when you showed up there?

MOSES: It was a huge culture shock for me. I came from a tropical-type climate, and I ended up in the harsh winters of South Dakota. I had to adjust to that. I went and worked in a meat company. I was like in a huge deep freezer, working on a production line, picking up a pig from one machine and putting it on the other.

MONTAGNE: Five years ago, the young man who'd fled Sudan's civil war found himself in another war zone, this time as an American officer in Iraq. In his words it was déjàvu, like the conflict he fled from in southern Sudan, with one difference.

MOSES: It was different, because when I was in Sudan I was just a civilian and I was just a kid. And so when bullets started flying, my natural instinct was to try to look for cover. But when I was in Iraq I had men that I had to lead. When bullets started flying over there, of course I wanted to run and take cover, but I had a job to do. I had to lead my platoon.

MONTAGNE: When you stand before the Vietnam Memorial and you give your talk to others who've been to war, what will be the thing that will be most important to you?


MOSES: When I was in Iraq, I had a friend - a fellow platoon leader - that paid the ultimate price. So it would be an appropriate occasion to honor this sacrifice.

MONTAGNE: His name is obviously not on the Vietnam Memorial, but if his name was listed there, what would it be and what would it say?

MOSES: It would say U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Leonard M. Cowherd - died May 16, 2004 in Karbala, Iraq, while securing a building near the Mukhayam Mosque.

MONTAGNE: Captain Moses, thank you very much for talking with us.

MOSES: I also wanted to add one other thing if you don't mind.

MONTAGNE: Yes, absolutely.

MOSES: There are many of - many reason why I joined the U.S. Army. But part of it was because when I was growing up, as I was going through all my struggles, many people went out of their way to help me out, especially when I came to this country. And so joining the U.S. Army was a way for me to give back, to serve my adopted country, because I know I'm representing something that is greater than myself.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

MOSES: Thank you so much for inviting me.


MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.