Dog Tag Fellows: From Baghdad to D.C.
That fellow at Dog Tag Bakery just might be a veteran who has quite the story to tell. Some are more intense than others. Lizandro Mateo-Ortiz and his wife Milena were part of the inaugural class of Dog Tag fellows. Army veteran Mateo-Ortiz barely survived being pulled under a Humvee in Iraq in 2007 and required many surgeries. He still walks with a brace and works with his wife of nearly 25 years. They have been in stories about the bakery.
Another story recalls the days of “Shock and Awe.” The newest Dog Tag fellow is 32-year-old Ayad Ahmed, who got swept up during the Battle of Baghdad in April 2003 . . . actually and harshly. His life changed forever. A bunker-busting bomb hit his street in the Mansour district, looking for Saddam Hussein on incorrect intelligence. The shock bombing killed his girlfriend and left his mother bleeding and grandfather in a coma. Eleven were killed. Ahmed was the only local who could speak English. Tough special operations soldiers grabbed Ahmed, tossed him in a Bradley fighting vehicle, threw a bullet-proof vest at him and told him to translate. None of the Americans spoke Arabic. Ahmed thought to himself: “You came all this way with no translator? What is Saddam doing in my garden, dude?”
His language skills saved the lives of some of his neighbors, whom he never saw again. “Everyone in the neighborhood hated me,” he said. There remains a bounty on his head, and he has never returned to Iraq. He lived with U.S. forces from 2003 until June 2009, when he left for Fort Riley, Kansas, for five years. “I was stuck with them.”
Ahmed became a U.S. citizen in November and wanted something more, he said, perhaps in Washington, D.C. While visiting the Pentagon, he stood in first of the office of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pondering his future. In a moment, Ahmed’s life would change again, when he was urged to contact Dog Tag, Inc. He began working at the bakery last week.