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Operation Amenah; Haditha girl saved by Marines

7 Mar 2008 | Cpl. Shawn Coolman

“Let’s get you home,” said Maj. Kevin Jarrard, commanding officer, Company L, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, as he escorted 2-year-old Amenah Thabit and her parents into vehicles that would take them to their home here Friday.

 Amenah traveled to Nashville, Tenn., in January to undergo open-heart surgery at the Monroe Carrel Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in order to correct a congenital heart defect.

 Sgt. Bryan C. Velasquez, a Company L squad leader, discovered Amenah on a routine patrol through the city. She appeared to be a normal little girl except for her blue lips and fingers.

 The Marines immediately fell in love with her, and with the help of the American people, raised more than $30,000 to fly Amenah and her mother, Maha Muhamed Bandar, to the U.S. to get her the medical attention that she could not receive in Iraq.

 The surgery was a success.

 After almost two months of anticipation, Amenah’s father, Ala Thabit Fattah, traveled to Baghdad with Jarrard and was finally reunited with his wife and daughter.

 “I am very happy, I didn’t think my daughter would return alive,” said Fattah.

 “This is my daughter, and she is ok now. I can’t believe that God gave me my daughter back,” said Bandar.

 Jarrard, who played a critical role in Amenah’s journey, expressed his own thoughts of the reunion.

 “I’ve got four children myself, two boys and two girls,” said Jarrard, 35, who is from Gainesville, Ga. “I was very happy to see a father, mother and child reunite.”

 After a thirty-hour flight, Amenah and her mother returned home to a warm, but relieved reunion of friends and family.

 During the course of the night, Amenah’s mother and father would not let her leave their sides, and they expressed how appreciative they were of the Marines and America.

 “I can’t say thank you; that’s just too small of a word to express how I feel,” said Bandar. “I want to thank all the people who helped get my daughter the help she needed.”

 “I am very grateful for the American people for their great treatment of my family,” added Fattah. “I wish from the bottom of my heart good blessings to the American people.”

 “I am very thankful for the (Marines) in Haditha, and I consider all them fathers to Amenah,” he added. “I will do anything as a return favor for their generosity in helping my family.”

 Before retiring to bed, Amenah whispered to her mother “I want some milk,” and like any loving mother would, Maha got her daughter some milk, and then laid her now healthy daughter down to sleep.