Once in a while among the horror stories of war, we hear stories that touch the heart. One of those occurred last week in a suburb of Atlanta when a former soldier reunited with the infant he rescued from Iraq in 1996.
Awaz Barwari found her name on Saddam Hussein’s kill list in 1996. The United States allowed her to escape the country, but her infant daughter Lava was not on the list. Baby Lava would have had to stay behind had soldier Greg Peppin not intervened.
Peppin “renamed” the baby after himself and smuggled her out of Iraq. He and the Barwaris had not seen each other since — until last week, when Baby Lava graduated from high school.
“I said, ‘My name is Greg, so if the baby’s name is Greg it’s got to be a relative and that means she can go,'” Peppin said.
Mom and baby ultimately made it to the Atlanta suburbs where Lava would rise through the Gwinnett County school system.
Peppin went on to become Vice President of Boeing International.
The families never saw each other again, but as Lava planned her graduation, she decided she had to track Peppin down.
“It was the first story I ever heard. She’s always told me about the man who saved my life,” Lava told WSB-TV’s Tony Thomas.
“The day I got Lava’s email was one of those signature days that kind of make your life worthwhile,” Peppin said.
And a reunion 18 years in the making finally happened Thursday between Peppin and “Baby Lava.”
“I’m happy you tracked me down. I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Peppin told Lava.
At Lava’s graduation Thursday night, that man who saved her life planned to be there, too.
“It was worth it… it was! Absolutely,” Peppin said.