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Soldier's actions change Iraqi family's lives

By Jennifer Stagg | Posted - Jan. 12, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- The actions of one Idaho soldier have changed the lives of an entire Iraqi family. Three of the family's children have a severe type of dwarfism and needed medical attention they couldn't get in Iraq.

The little girl has a long road to recovery. Her family had been threatened by terrorists in Iraq for helping U.S. soldiers. Now they have a new life in the United States thanks to one man.

The story starts with one soldier called to serve in Iraq. But because of his age, and the fact he had already served in the military nearly 40 years ago, Russell Hayes almost didn't go. That was until his wife told him about a feeling she had.

**What is… the International Dwarf Advocacy Association?**
The International Dwarf Advocacy Association (IDAA), is a non-profit organization founded to help people all over the world and their families who have dwarfism. The IDAA helps with medical needs and financial needs and aims to help these people become successful and adapt to their local environments or help them relocate.
"She said, ‘Honey, why fight it? Maybe God has a reason for you to go to Iraq,'" Hayes recalled. What Hayes didn't know was that on the other side of the world a man much like him was praying for help.

When Hayes arrived in Iraq, he read an article about Abdul Salman -- a father of six children, who had been helping U.S. soldiers. He was disabled, and then Hayes got to the last line of the story: it said that three of Salman's children had a degenerative type of dwarfism.

"Me being the father of a dwarf, that just jumped right out at me," Hayes said.

His own daughter has dwarfism. At that moment, he knew that was the reason he was serving, and he knew he wanted to help them.

"I believe God put all this together," Hayes said. "It was not coincidence. God put this together." Hayes voluntarily extended his tour of duty to make sure the family got visas. Other soldiers pitched in, paying to fly the family to the United States. Once here, Hayes and his wife started paying for a house near them in Kuna, Idaho, for the Salman's. He also arranged for Shriner's Hospital to help with the children's medical expenses.

The oldest, 14-year-old Saja, is in the worst condition. She had a series of complex surgeries a few days ago and is now recovering at Primary Children's Medical Center.The other children will have similar procedures.

Through a translator, Abdul expressed his gratitude.

"He said, ‘I am before hopeless, but now I have hope,'" the translator explained.

**Iraqi Community of Utah**
3956 S. Main Street SLC, UT 84107 (801) 979-7753 *[ Iraqicommunityofutah@yahoo.com](mailto:Iraqicommunityofutah@yahoo.com )*
That hope came from one soldier's actions.

Every one of us can do something," Hayes said. "Recognize something that's placed in front of you and go ahead and go with it."

Abdul was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and two of his children are preparing for their surgeries. CLICK HERE to help the family by donating to the International Dwarf Advocacy Association.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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Jennifer Stagg

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