Impromptu Hug Spoke Louder Than Words; Symbolized Sacrifices by Troops, Iraqis

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The mother of a Marine killed in Iraq and the daughter of an Iraqi man killed by Saddam Hussein's regime embraced Wednesday night during the State of the Union address, symbolizing what America has bestowed on Iraq and the price paid by troops and civilians.

Janet Norwood and Safia Taleb al Suhail - sitting a few feet apart in the House chamber's balcony box - used President Bush's address to tell each other what the liberation of Iraq and the free elections there on Sunday meant to them.

"She thanked us," Mrs. Norwood said yesterday. "She thanked us for our son's sacrifice and made sure we knew that the people of Iraq were grateful for the sacrifices that were made. Not just by our son, but by all of them.

"I just told her how happy we were that the elections were successful and told her our son would have been pleased," she said.

Mrs. Norwood and her husband, William, of Pflugerville, Texas, lost their 25-year-old son, Byron, on Nov. 13 when he was killed by sniper fire during an assault on the terrorist stronghold of Fallujah. She since has worn her son's dog tags and carried a small picture of him.

"These are actually his dog tags he had on," Mrs. Norwood said in a television interview. "This is what's called an angel tag. It has his picture and his name and date and eagle on the back. It says freedom is never free. It is the message we feel like Byron and all the other people who serve this country wearing a uniform, that's the message that they would probably want everyone to know."

She said the whole experience of being at the speech - the hug, the applause, the looks from the House floor by an emotional Mr. Bush - was "surreal."

"We weren't aware any of that was going to happen. I think Byron would have been pleased," she said.

Mr. Norwood agreed.

"Byron really believed that the Iraqi people deserved a chance to take ownership of the concept of freedom. …