E-mail thanks continues story of Iraqi boy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

A thank-you from Warren Zinn came by e-mail this week, an unexpected contact from the Army Times photographer whose extraordinary image made the front pages of many U.S. newspapers on March 26.

Zinn recently had returned from Iraq, he said, and wanted to acknowledge the column I had written, inspired by his photograph of the small wounded Iraqi boy cradled in the arms of an American soldier.

U.S. Army Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, heavily geared for duty on the battle lines, saw the 4-year-old boy and ran for him, swept him into his arms and hurried back to attend to the wounds along with an Army doctor. They cared for the child until an Iraqi ambulance came to take him to a hospital a few miles away.

Email newsletter signup

Was that the end of the story? Zinn wondered. He knew there was more, and he wanted to find it. He learned something about Dwyer, a 26-year-old who had grown up in Long Island and whose father and brothers had chosen law enforcement for their careers.

A story published earlier this month in USA Today, routed to me through Zinn’s e-mail, tells of Dwyer’s decision to enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City. For a short time after the attacks, Dwyer thought one of his brothers had died at the World Trade Center. Finding the brother was safe, Dwyer decided he might make a difference for his country by joining the Army.

As for the wounded child, Zinn did not know the rest of the story &045; that is, until a few weeks ago when he returned to the scene and began searching for him.

The fighting had taken place not far from Abu Sukhayr, a couple of hours south of Baghdad. Zinn, along with a crew from CNN, retraced his steps and began to show the photograph of the boy to people who lived in the area when he sensed he was close to the spot where the now-famous photo was made.

They found the child. They learned his name, Ali Sattar. His father recalled the day when gunfire and explosions erupted around their small brick home beside the river and when he saw his son wounded.

A rough scar on Ali’s left leg and a slight limp are reminders of that day when the little boy became a casualty of war. Still, Ali is alive, although in some pain after nearly two weeks in the hospital after the incident occurred.

Returning to find the rest of the story is any journalist’s dream. Zinn did just that.

Little Ali could not have any concept of the impact his photograph had on the millions of people who saw it.

Only two days before Ali was wounded, on March 23, young U.S. Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch received devastating wounds when her company was ambushed further south near Nasiriyah.

Her long and painful recovery continues; but meanwhile, she is a new American icon, her future secure.

Jessica’s story will generate interest for years to come. Will she follow her young dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher? We are sure to know that and much more as her life progresses.

As for Ali, with whom Jessica shares the commonality of war wounds, this may be the last we hear of him.

At least, however, because a journalist cared enough to find out the rest of the story, we do know the small boy in the photograph has survived. And perhaps the best we can hope for him is a country where peace and freedom will allow him, like Jessica, to follow some young dream of his own.

Joan Gandy

is community editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3549, or by e-mail at