SUFFOLK, Va. — Cmdr. Michael Marcolla became one of the first FY17 O5 selectees to wear silver oak leaves. His wife, Farah, pinned them on at a ceremony in Suffolk, Virginia, on Oct. 1, with a banner-sized American flag providing a fitting backdrop for the ceremony. After the pinning, Marcolla presented flowers to his wife and thanked her for helping him accomplish a lifelong goal.
“It was a poignant moment,” Marcolla said.
Later, over a piece of chocolate cake, he reminisced about his last promotion ceremony, which occurred in 2011, during his 20-month mobilization to Iraq. The setting for that ceremony was very different. There was no banner-sized flag, no flowers, and no chocolate cake. But one detail was identical: Farah had been there to do the pinning. Impossible? No, just improbable.
Farah is not a member of the U.S. Armed Services, but she was once an Iraqi citizen. Born in Babylon, she will always love her homeland. When it became overrun by Al-Qaeda, and American Soldiers arrived to help liberate Iraq, she didn't sit idly by. Farah and her family began assisting our Soldiers, and in 2003, she established an engineering company that built helicopter pads and base force protection barriers and provided other logistical support, in addition to providing linguist/interpreter support to senior U. S. generals.
Farah worked tirelessly alongside U.S. Soldiers to help restore freedom and order to Iraq. Eventually, Al-Qaeda began threatening her family. Her life was in danger, and she faced death almost every day.
On Christmas Eve 2006, Farah’s life changed forever as terrorists followed her home where she was later assaulted, her father was kidnapped and her husband was murdered alongside her bodyguard and driver.
After this tragedy, the Army would later provide a permanent residence for Farah and her remaining family members at Camp Victory, where she continued to serve alongside U.S. Soldiers.
In 2012, Farah was awarded sanctuary to the United States, where she could learn and experience a life of peace and opportunity that was once unimaginable. She eventually married the Sailor who had befriended her in Iraq.
Looking back, she remembers how she and then-Lieutenant Marcolla first met. She was helping him teach and mentor young Iraqis through a program similar to the Boy Scouts. "He was so good with the boys," Farah said. "By the time he left Iraq, whenever the Iraqi children saw a Solider or Sailor, they'd call him ‘Mike.’”
Today, the Marcollas are extremely grateful for their life in America. They are grateful for U.S. freedoms and do what they can to help preserve them.
Their circumstances are very different now, but they continue the work they began in Iraq. Marcolla still serves in the Navy Reserve while Farah volunteers her time to often meet with senior U. S. leaders, sharing her past and doing her part to advocate for others who risked their lives to help American Soldiers and Sailors in Iraq.
The couple continues working to make our world a better place. They teach and mentor their two sons, and by their example, they demonstrate to the rest of us that — despite our differences — we can work together to help forge a better future.
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