Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A Free Iraq Fighter goes home.

Khuder al-Emeri, translator for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), was a leader in his Shiite town's uprising against Saddam Hussein following Operation Desert Storm. The rebellion was crushed, leaving him with a bounty on his head of 50,000 Iraqi dinars, and nowhere to hide from the Ba'ath party's vengeance. With no other choice, he sought refuge in the United States with relatives in Seattle -- leaving his wife and sons behind, with a promise that someday he would return -- and that they would all be free.

Twelve years later, after joining forces with the 24th MEU, the 43-year-old restaurateur returned to his hometown of Qalat Sukar and fulfilled his promise to his family and his people. After more than a decade of living in exile, he was reunited with his family, including his two young sons in a tearful moment while hundreds cheered.

It was then that al-Emeri took the microphone and made an announcement over the loudspeaker -- advising the crowd to remain a safe distance away from the Marines, to ensure everyone's safety and the success of the mission. This resulted in an unusual reaction from the crowd; they immediately backed up as directed, but with a commotion on one end. A ripple traveled through the group from back to front, and a man emerged with a teenage boy at his side - al Emeri's brother, who recognized his voice, and Khuder's 15- year-old son, Ali, whom he hadn't seen since he was a toddler.

A torrent of tears followed as he was reunited with his members of his family. He cried as they passed news of the death of an older brother just days earlier, but he took solace in the moment of reunion as he embraced his younger brother and two youngest sons.

Khuder al-Emeri left Seattle three months ago to join the Free Iraqi Forces, and was assigned to the Civil Affairs Detachment of the 24th MEU. "I came to help my people...to help them establish a democratic government," he said. He serves as a guide and interpreter, assisting with all phases of operations

"This man came to me, and he was hugging me and crying and kissing me, and after a couple of minutes, I asked him who he was, and it was my brother! I didn't recognize him; I hadn't seen him in 18 years; he had been a prisoner of war in Iran since 1985," he said. For him, that moment was nearly overwhelming. "I was crying, (there were) too many people talking, meeting, hugging, kissing...(There was) good news, bad news, same day, same time," he said.

The Iraqi-American comes from a large family, with nine brothers and five sisters. Four of his brothers are in America. One is also a member of the Free Iraqi Forces serving with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and another, a restaurant owner in the Seattle area, like Khuder. "His restaurant is in downtown Everett (Wash)... I lost my restaurant (in Seattle) after 9/11, business just went away," he said, shrugging.

< email | 4/16/2003 12:36:00 PM | link

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