- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

The mother of a Marine killed in Iraq and the daughter of an Iraqi man killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime embraced Wednesday night during the State of the Union address, symbolizing what America has bestowed on Iraq and the price paid by troops and civilians.

Janet Norwood and Safia Taleb al Suhail — sitting a few feet apart in the House chamber’s balcony box — used President Bush’s address to tell each other what the liberation of Iraq and the free elections there on Sunday meant to them.

“She thanked us,” Mrs. Norwood said yesterday. “She thanked us for our son’s sacrifice and made sure we knew that the people of Iraq were grateful for the sacrifices that were made. Not just by our son, but by all of them.

“I just told her how happy we were that the elections were successful and told her our son would have been pleased,” she said.

Mrs. Norwood and her husband, William, of Pflugerville, Texas, lost their 25-year-old son, Byron, on Nov. 13 when he was killed by sniper fire during an assault on the terrorist stronghold of Fallujah. She since has worn her son’s dog tags and carried a small picture of him.

“These are actually his dog tags he had on,” Mrs. Norwood said in a television interview. “This is what’s called an angel tag. It has his picture and his name and date and eagle on the back. It says freedom is never free. It is the message we feel like Byron and all the other people who serve this country wearing a uniform, that’s the message that they would probably want everyone to know.”

She said the whole experience of being at the speech — the hug, the applause, the looks from the House floor by an emotional Mr. Bush — was “surreal.”

“We weren’t aware any of that was going to happen. I think Byron would have been pleased,” she said.

Mr. Norwood agreed.

“Byron really believed that the Iraqi people deserved a chance to take ownership of the concept of freedom. And they certainly proved they can do that now,” he said.

The Norwoods and Mrs. al Suhail were among the guests invited by the White House to watch the address.

Mrs. al Suhail is a political force in Iraq, leading the Iraqi Women’s Political Council and the civil-society organization Alliance for International Justice. She also serves as an adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She became politically active after her father, Sheik Taleb al Suhail al Tamimi, was assassinated in Beirut by Saddam’s secret service in 1996. She is married to Bakhtiar Amin, a Kurdish political activist and founder of the Iraqi Democracy Institute in the United States.

Mrs. al Suhail said the hug during the speech was spontaneous.

“I didn’t control myself, to hold her and hug her and tell her how thankful I am and the people of Iraq for her son and the soldiers who sacrificed in giving freedom to my country,” she said.

She became emotional as she spoke about Mrs. Norwood’s loss and as she spoke about the death of her father.

“We both have suffered a lot in losing our beloved ones,” she said.

Mrs. al Suhail also said she invited Mrs. Norwood to visit her family in Baghdad.

Mr. Bush said yesterday that the women’s embrace was “an indication to me, and I think our country, that the Iraqi people so appreciate the sacrifices, especially by the military and our military families, in order to free them.”

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