NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When an Atlanta teen graduates from high school soon, she’ll have a very special friend watching.
She was just a baby when she was whisked out of Iraq by a U.S. soldier who helped her out of the country.
It was 1996 when Awaz Barwari was added to Saddam Hussein’s kill list. The United States agree to get her out of Iraq.
But as she and her baby Lava arrived at the border, she was told she could go but her baby’s name wasn’t on the list so she had to stay behind.
Then-soldier Greg Peppin took the baby in his arms and announced she had a new name.
“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 recalled.
Both mother and child ultimately made it to the Atlanta subrubs where Lava would rise through the Gwinnet school system.
Peppin went on to become Vice President of the Boeing International.
The families never saw each other again, but as Lava planned her graduation, she decided she had to track him down.
“It was the first story I probably every heard,” the teen said. “[My mom] has always told me about the man who saved my life.”
“The day I got Lava’s email was one of those signature days that kind of makes your life worthwhile,” Peppin said.
So when Lava walks across the stage to accept her high school diploma, the man who saved her life will be there again for another key moment.
“I’m happy you tracked me down,” Peppin told Lava.
“So am I,” she responded.
Lava’s family is Kurdish, an ethnic group targeted by the former Iraqi government for genocide.