'Waited a Long Time for This': Iraqi Navy SEAL Interpreter Sworn in as U.S. Citizen - NBC Southern California

'Waited a Long Time for This': Iraqi Navy SEAL Interpreter Sworn in as U.S. Citizen

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Military Interpreter Sworn in as U.S. Citizen

    Known as Johnny Walker, he has worked as an Iraqi translator for the U.S. military, and now he is officially an American citizen. NBC 7's Bridget Naso has more on Walker's journey to citizenship. (Published Tuesday, March 26, 2019)

    The Navy SEALs called him by his code name -- Johnny Walker -- and they vowed the military interpreter from Iraq would one day be able to call himself an American.

    And on Wednesday, that promise came true.

    Watching Johnny Walker being sworn in as a U.S. citizen may have been the end of a long mission for this elite group of U.S. Special Forces.

    As he raised his hand during the ceremony in San Diego, Walker said all of the emotion from his countless missions more than a decade ago came flooding back.

    “Memories, sweat, blood, everything -- everything came in the same second,” said Walker.

    Retired Navy Capt. Steve Wisotzki felt similar emotions as he watched Walker take his oath.

    “It was pretty powerful. We waited a long time for this,” Wisotzki said. He and Walker worked together in Baghdad, Iraq.

    Wisotzki told NBC7 that Walker had special skills to find high-valued targets for U.S. Special Forces, making him a target too.

    “He's extremely, extremely gifted, so we were able to pile a lot of missions, a lot of things onto him, and he performed them almost always flawlessly,” Wisotzki said.

    Pete Turner served in the army and conducted missions with Walker in Mosul, Iraq.

    “I have tears right now that I'm barely holding back on. It means so much -- I never thought he would live to see this day,” Turner said.

    Walker’s work with U.S. Special Forces began shortly after the start of the Iraq War. While the U.S. military rotated in and out of Iraq, Walker remained for whichever team needed him -- wherever they needed him.

    “He's as much an American as anybody I know,” retired Navy SEAL Ed Hiner said.

    Walker had a bounty put on his head for his service to U.S. Special Forces. He lost loved ones, including his brother. And a decade ago, Walker was allowed to come to the U.S.

    But the military interpreter could never really call America home, as his immigration case was wrapped in red tape for 10 years. But that didn’t stop retired Navy SEAL Jason Tuschen and others from fighting for the man they called their brother.

    “It's hard to quantify in words but, yeah, we're tight, so excited to see him finally get what he earned,” Tuschen told NBC7.

    Now they could finally exhale. Mission complete.

    On Wednesday, Walker said all of his sacrifices were worth it.

    “I dreamed of living in this country. Now I'm living here with my family, my brothers -- it's amazing,” Walker said.

    Walker’s daughter and son also became citizens alongside their father in the swearing in Wednesday.