Age: 24 | Washington, D.C.
U.S. Army, Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2009-2010
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, Mohamed Mustafa knew there was a stigma swirling around the Arab American community. He was raised by Palestinian father who went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force. It was Mohamed’s father’s dedication to country and the belief that he could personally shatter some of the negative misperceptions of the Arab community that led him to join the U.S. Army. In 2008, 20-year-old Mohamed enlisted as an infantryman and a year later he deployed to Iraq.
While overseas, Mohamed found himself on combat patrols and conducting ambushes against insurgents. But more importantly, he realized he was bridging the gap between two cultures as a diplomat of sorts. Mohamed taught his fellow servicemembers about Islamic culture and acted as a translator between American troops and Iraqis. His skills were valued and he watched as stigmas began to fade on both sides.
Mohamed has continued to put his skills to use after coming home. He now volunteers with Team Rubicon
, an organization of Veterans who use their military skills to assist in disaster relief operations. He recently returned from a trip to South Sudan where he helped build clinics, vaccinate the locals, and distribute food.
“When I came home from Iraq, that sense of purpose and service I had while overseas just disappeared,” Mohamed said. “But when I became involved with Team Rubicon and used my skills again, I felt a renewed sense of purpose which really helped me truly come home.”
Watch Mohamed's video