ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – A St. Louis area man has an incredibly unique perspective on the crisis unfolding in Iraq.
If you haven't heard this man's story, you may have seen his picture. It became world-famous after he pulled Saddam Hussein from his bunker hiding spot more than a decade ago. Now, Samir Aljassim is putting his faith in the country where he was born, to once again, overcome.
As Aljassim showed NewsChannel 5 on Saturday photos of the moment he came face-to-face with Hussein, he tried to find words to describe the feeling that came over him.
"To me it was really like a dream come true," Aljassim said.
Because, before the dream, came real-life nightmares of abuse and violence, at the hands of Saddam Hussein.
"Killing people left and right...," Aljassim said.
The killings included some of Aljassim's family members, which was a major factor in why he joined the uprising against Hussein when he was 19. The decision would ultimately force him to leave Iraq as a refugee, causing him to eventually move to the St. Louis area. After he left his homeland, it would be more than a decade until he returned as an interpreter for U.S. Special Forces.
"I'm here to help my people, I'm here to free my country, I'm here to free my parents," said Aljassim, explaining his decision to return to Iraq in 2003.
In December of that year, Aljassim's team learned where Hussein was hiding. He took part in the raid, and turned out to be the one to pull the fallen dictator from his bunker. That night, he would look into the face of the man who had ruined his life.
"He called me a traitor, and I had to punch him," Aljassim said.
And, in that instant, Aljassim had helped bring a stop to Sadam Hussein's power. Now, he's putting faith in the people of his native country, that they too may take back Iraq.
"I think they can do the job, they're very tough," he said. "They're willing to fight and [they] love their country."
While he says they may need air support and equipment, he says the invasion is their problem to fix. And, a week he expects the situation to be better. In a decade, he hopes to be able to visit the country he loves.
"I'm an American but Iraq is part of me," said Aljassim.
He says he spoke with his family members Saturday. They say in the south Iraq, life is normal. They are worried about the threat, but say in most southern cities there are hundreds of volunteer forces ready and willing to fight.