HADITHA, Iraq (March 9, 2008) — A two-year-old Iraqi girl returned to Haditha March 7 after undergoing open-heart surgery at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
Ala Thabit Fattah, the girl’s father, and several family members traveled with Marines to Baghdad International Airport to meet Amenah, who departed Iraq Jan. 22 with his wife.
“I am very happy. I was very worried that my daughter would not come home alive,” Fattah said. “I am very grateful for the great treatment the American people gave to my family.”
The family then flew to Al Asad Airbase in Al Anbar Province, where they boarded an MV-22 Osprey for the final leg of the voyage to Haditha.
Back home, the family served a dinner in her honor.
“I’ve got four children, two boys and two girls myself; I was very happy to see a father, mother and child reunite,” said Maj. Kevin Jarrard, Company L’s commanding officer and the architect behind the medical effort.
Marines from 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, which is assigned to the Camp Pendleton-based Regimental Combat Team 5, discovered Amenah on a routine patrol through the city. They noticed her extremities exhibited a bluish hue whenever she exerted herself. The battalion surgeon, Capt. John Nadeau, recognized the gravity of her condition and coordinated arrangements with the medical staff at Vanderbilt to perform a surgical procedure to remedy her heart defect.
The 35-year-old Gainesville, Ga., native, Jarrard choreographed the international effort to transport Amenah to the United States and oversaw the entire operation. His wife, Kelly Jarrard, raised the funds to finance the journey on both ends.
“Thank you is just too small of a word to express how I feel,” said Amehah’s mother, Maha Muhammed Bandar.
When Amenah arrived at Vanderbilt, doctors discovered, among other things, her heart was turned backwards. Nevertheless, the Feb. 11 operation was success, and Amenah spent the rest of her time in America recovering.
The progress wrought in Haditha by the Marines and their Iraqi partners over the last several years fostered an environment in which a humanitarian operation of this nature was possible.
“Haditha got really bad in 2005. All of the government facilities (hospital, Iraqi Police) were useless because insurgents controlled the town. If anyone spoke out against the insurgents, they would either threaten the person or kill them,” Capt. Samir Miflih, a local government official who attended Amenah’s homecoming. “At the end of 2006, the Marines who used to be here helped organize the police system again and encouraged the people to return to work.”
Haditha is now a reviving city on the verge of Coalition force demilitarization and Iraqi lead with regard to security and municipal governance. This city’s success is the result of this cooperative effort, such as with the care of Amenah.
“I am very thankful for Jarrard, Nadeau, and I consider all the Marines in Haditha father to Amenah, and I will do anything as a return favor for the generosity of the Marines helping my family,” said Fattah.
It is a necessary step to cement the framework of the Iraqi government beyond the presence of coalition forces, Daly said.
Projects to benefit area children were also discussed. Rasoul, an engineer and a council member, is working with 2nd Platoon to make improvements to the Mustaffa Secondary School. The town is also working on larger projects, including future construction of a school and repairs to the water distribution system.
On the last two hours of the patrol, Soldiers worked with the Iraqi Organization for Motherhood, Childhood and the Handicapped. They met with Kasim, a council member and main spokesperson for the group. Soldiers heard the group’s needs and plan to make frequent trips to deliver food, school supplies and basic medical supplies to aid area residents, Daly said.