Essam Alridi was born in Egypt, but came to the United States as a young man to train as a pilot. He loved his adopted land, married here and settled in Texas. But he also loved his religion, and in 1982 he joined the jihad call to drive the communists out of Afghanistan.
There he met Osama bin Laden. He spent a great deal of time with this wealthy Saudi who devoted much of his fortune and passion to winning the embattled Afghanistan back to Islam.
"I was the one who took him to so many places," said Alridi of his time with bin Laden. "I dined with him. I slept with him in the same tent. So it was a very intimate and close relationship."
But over time Alridi became disillusioned. His defining moment came in 1987 during a battle known as the Lion's Den operation in northern Afghanistan. It was the first time that bin Laden and his men had engaged the Soviets. The battle raged for a week and at its conclusion bin Laden's troops had suffered 50 casualties. The Soviets lost only two.
Yet despite the losses, bin Laden and his camp called the battle a resounding victory. That lie disillusioned Alridi. He decided to leave bin Laden and return to the United States. Years later Alridi testified against an al Qaeda member in the trial after the 1998 African embassy bombings. His testimony helped win a conviction against Wadih el Haje.
"... one of the reasons I testified is because I wanted our reputation to be different," Alridi says. "I wanted people to understand that Muslims are not all alike, and Muslims could be a great help to this country."