Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, our November NFM Salute came to the United States at the age of 12. Wanting to serve his new country using his knowledge of the Russian language, he entered the Army as a linguist and would go on to act as translator between the United States and Russia for the famous Bering Bridge Expedition of 1989.

Full Transcript is Below:

– Welcome to our November, 2022 NFM Salute. I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. As you can see, we are on location today. We are in McClean, Virginia about two miles away from CIA headquarters where we are honored to be honoring Henry Shimberg. He served in the Army as a specialist, linguist and interrogator, born in Kiev, Ukraine. Obviously a focal point of our universe right now. So much to talk about. But first, Henry, I want to thank you for being with us and thank you for allowing us to honor you with our November, 2022 NFM Salute.

– Thank you Greg. I’m very honored to be here with you.

– We are so happy to have you. So much to get into here. You served again from 1985 to 1989, Russian linguist. Now, you were born in Kiev, as I mentioned so did you grow up speaking Ukrainian or Russian language?

– They taught us Ukrainian in school and you used it on the street with people but primarily Russian.

– So you were in Kiev until you were 12 years old?

– Correct.

– What are your memories of Kiev?

– Beautiful city, beautiful subway system, beautiful people. The churches that were like museums, the underground transportation system lined in marble, a clean city, very, very friendly people.

– How shocked were you when you first learned that Russian forces would be moving in on basically what is your hometown?

– I was extremely shocked because thinking of Russia and Ukraine is like two cousins. This was a first meeting place from the east and the west. And to bomb Kiev, it’s inconceivable. It breaks my heart to any part of it to be injured like this is an open sore. It’s an open wound.

– Well, we hope it heals soon. Of course we pray for all the people in that area of the world. So you said you moved here at 12 years old. What do you remember about that?

– The grocery stores that are full of food where you didn’t have to stand in line was something remarkable to a 12 year old kid.

– Do you remember touching down in the United States? Do you remember that day?

– I do. It was a cold day in New York and it was dark. It was probably about 9:30, 10 o’clock at night and we get off the plane and the chill of that September evening. The taste of the air is something I can’t describe and the welcome that we received again, it’s something indescribable.

– Well, so let’s jump into your time as a Russian linguist and interrogator. How did you get into that line of work?

– When I finished high school and started college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I walked into a U.S. Army recruiting office and I said “I speak Russian. What can you guys help me with? I wanna serve my country.” And I went into the US Army.

– Part of the time that you served as a translator, you were the only translator to sit down with both Russian and U.S. representatives during the Cold War in a private meeting. Tell us about that day, that night in 1989 what you did and what you remember about it.

– Okay. There was a team of Russian and American explorers traveling from Siberia through the Bering Strait, coming to the United States on sleds and dog teams and skis. And when they crossed the US border there was gonna be a meeting of US and Russian representatives and they needed a translator. The border where the US and Russia meets it runs between two islands. One is called Little Diomede, which belongs to the United States has a native village and Big Diomede which has a barracks of border guards. The interesting thing is the distance between the two islands is only 2.4 miles, but 22 hours because the international Dateline runs in between them. And so when the… We flew on a Blackhawk from Nome, Alaska me and this lieutenant colonel from Alaska National Guard. We flew down to Little Diomede and we were met by our counterparts from this Russian border guards colonel with his team and several news video crew and we met on frozen ice between these two islands. And I got to translate for the meeting between the two colonels and it was 45 degrees below 0 third week of April, 1989. The Bering Strait was still frozen, the snow was piled up to our waist.

– That’s incredible. What a moment for you. You have any heroes in the military? People that you respect, admire, and look up to and why?

– One of the most remarkable people that I’ve respected and I got to meet in person is Colin Powell. I’ve had a chance to meet him several times and some of the comments he made to me how to lead my life and how to… Actually, how to bring my daughter up to be a remarkable person has shaped me extremely and I’ll always be grateful to him.

– What’s one little piece that you can now pass on from him to others.

– He always said, “Never tell your children, no you can’t do this.” He always said “Instead tell ’em, you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it.” Because of this, I’ve always said that to my daughter. She finished high school in three years. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in three years. She just graduated from Hopkins at age 21 with a master’s degree.

– Hmm. You sound like a proud dad.

– I am extremely proud dad. Yes, I’m a proud husband and I’m a proud dad.

– The $2,500 donation we’re gonna make is going towards Wounded Warriors. You selected this charity because at large part your brother-in-law served in the Marines. He’s a former Marine. He was a gunner on a helicopter and he has a lot of people that he fought with that were disabled where Wounded Warriors did a lot for them. So, we’re glad to make that donation to Wounded Warriors for you and we’re certainly honored to have spent time with you. You’re fascinating. You wanna say goodbye to everybody and Ukrainian, can you do that? Or Russian, what do you think? Give it a shot either way.

– In English.

– What I said was, I wanna say goodbye to everybody and I wanna wish them a good long life.

– Thank you for your service and your time and for being our November NFM Salute.

– Thank you, Greg. I appreciate that very much.

– We hope you’ve enjoyed this NFM Salute for the month of November, 2022. I’m NFM TV’s Greg Sher. We’ll see you again next time.