Offering a unique perspective on the Iraq War, the new memoir “Code Name: Johnny Walker” tells the story of one Iraqi who risked everything to fight with U.S. troops, in particular the Navy SEALs, becoming perhaps the only “terp” (interpreter) to be welcomed into their tight-knit fold.
Co-written by Walker (a pseudonym and nickname given to him based on his love of the Scotch whisky) and author Jim DeFelice, "Code Name" is the story of a family man who the SEALs came to rely on to interpret the local language on dangerous missions as the insurgency intensified following the American invasion.
But for Walker, this isn’t so much about telling his story as it is honoring the Americans he ended up spending eight dangerous years working alongside.
“The SEALs are human beings first, and they came to help and make a change in Iraq and help innocent people. I feel that I owe it to them to show everybody – the Middle East and America and the world – what awesome guys they are. I have to share that with other people,” Walker told FOX411. “They taught me about sacrifice and nobody being left behind. I just worked from my heart; I wanted to help them make every mission successful. For them to call me a brother, that’s a huge honor.”
One breakthrough moment in the book, when Walker became more than just a “terp,” happened during a firefight in which one SEAL was shot. Walker fearlessly ran through the line of fire, picked up the wounded serviceman, and took him to safety. The remarkable story of the Mosul local first came to DeFelice’s attention in 2011 when he was co-writing “American Sniper’ with the highly-decorated, now fallen SEAL, Chris Kyle. The author spotted a slightly taller, smiling man wearing different combat cammies.
“Chris said that was Johnny Walker, the only Iraqi he ever trusted with a gun,” DeFelice recalled. “He told me Johnny saved more SEAL and Iraqi lives than even he had.”
DeFelice hopes that through Walker's memoir, readers come to understand the true nature of the Iraqi people.
“A lot of Americans don’t understand that terrorists are actually a very, very small portion of the populations and that they steal a lot of goodwill in the country and the people who want democracy,” he noted. “But they’re the ones who aren’t blowing themselves up so we don’t hear about them on the news.”
“Johnny Walker” (due to potential dangers facing his relatives in Iraq if his real name were exposed, the pseudonym remains), his wife and children relocated to California in 2009, where he proudly works as cultural advisor to SEAL teams. They are on track to become citizens in July.
“I think sometimes we, or at least I, take concepts like freedom or having my kids go to school for granted. Johnny’s story was a reminder or how important our American values are,” DeFelice said. “All of my grandparents came to America and worked into citizenship and that is really Johnny’s story. It is the story of America and the American Dream.”
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