QALAT SUKAR, Iraq -- Residents of the town of Qalat Sukar, Iraq crowded its streets and sidewalks to cheer on Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) who arrived to destroy symbols of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party regime, and welcome back a hometown hero.
Khuder al-Emiri, the MEU's translator and an Iraqi forced into exile in 1991 for his role in the uprising against the regime following Operation Desert Storm, delivered the MEU's message to the villagers - that they came in peace, and are there to destroy the town's regime symbols, not harm its residents. al-Emiri also hoped to locate his family in the city of more than 45,000. Upon recognizing his voice, his al-Emiri's brother came forth with two of his three sons, whom he had not seen in 12 years. A tearful reunion followed, while hundreds of villagers chanted to the Marines in Arabic, "the suffering is over" and "USA STAY," in English.