The military translator from Queens sat beside his mother in a wheelchair in a hospital room on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Thursday. His right leg was encased in a black boot, affixed with Velcro straps from his swollen toes to his knee. What was left of his left leg, which had been amputated at the knee, was wrapped in a snug elastic rubber stocking on which the word “stump” had been scrawled.
A Kind of Courage That’s Hard to Translate
The man’s name is Syed Shah and he was grievously wounded in July in a bomb attack on a military convoy in Afghanistan, where he had been working as a translator for soldiers battling the Taliban. Mr. Shah is learning to walk with a prosthetic leg, though his progress is severely hindered because he cannot put any weight on his partly shattered right leg.
Yet to his family’s shock and anguish, and to his doctors’ awe, Mr. Shah is aiming to be back in Afghanistan by year’s end.
It is unclear how many military translators have been injured or killed working in Iraq and Afghanistan, though estimates put the figure at hundreds. Local militants fighting American forces vilify translators and make them targets, seeing their work as acts of betrayal.
Yet Mr. Shah said his reason for wanting to return was simple: Working in Afghanistan instilled in him a sense of purpose that he had not quite felt before.
He had long been troubled by terrorist acts carried out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was especially haunted by an Internet video that showed a young boy, who was perhaps 10, being outfitted with a suicide vest, and later blowing up. “It was something,” he said, “that any human would find unacceptable.”