When Lance Corporal Dakbai Dakbai joined the Marine reserve, his cousin Shaga Akechi--also a refugee--thought this warzone was certainly safer than the one they'd left behind.
"We didn't have bulletproof or anything," he says in broken English, "So I thought, 'you'll be fine.'"
New Year's day, the boys' foster mom Maria Wawro got a call from Dakbai, from a field hospital in Baghdad.
"He said they were standing around the room and the gun went off. One got it in the chest, the other 3 in the leg," Wawro says.
The details are sketchy, but they know he arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland Friday night. He's listed in serious condition.
The Wawro's flew to Maryland to meet him.
Even in this frightening moment, "proud" is how they say they feel about the son they welcomed into their home six years ago.
They are, of course, anxious to be by his bedside, but this is just one more trial in a life that's been riddled with them.
"He's overcome all the others. I'm optimistic he'll overcome this one," Ray Wawro says.
Dakbai enlisted to fight for his adopted country without even telling the Wawro's. The decision made him immediately eligible for citizenship, which he got before he left for Iraq in September.