For most Americans, the fighting in Iraq unfolds from afar. But for others, including these six Puget Sound-area residents, the war is close to home.

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Rabab Al-Ali, 19, Everett Community College student. Her family came from Iraq and owns a small grocery store in Everett.

When the Iraq War started, Rabab Al-Ali kept the TV on all the time, trying not to miss any developments.

Just months earlier, she and her immediate family had come to the United States from Iraq, where friends and much of her extended family remained.

“I watched the news with the hope Iraq will have new life,” said the college freshman. “The first few years I was very hopeful. But every year, it’s gotten worse, not better.”

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Insurgent forces have grown and Babylon, where she was born, has become unsafe, she said. “All the hopes we had at the beginning are gone.”

Her father, who had fought against Saddam Hussein’s forces, spent 12 years in a refugee camp. In 2000, he came to the U.S. as a refugee; his immediate family joined him here two years later.

During the war’s first year, they would gather for weekend barbecues along the Washington coast, celebrating being together again. But by the second anniversary, they had stopped going. “When we go to have fun, we remember the people [in Iraq],” Al-Ali said. “We got so sad, we started crying.”

The war has renewed a resolve she had back in Iraq to become a doctor. She had abandoned that goal in the U.S. because the language barrier made science classes difficult. But as she watched news footage of children dragging the injured through the streets of Iraq seeking help, “I promised myself to be a doctor.”

Sometimes when she hears about new attacks she has a hard time studying, but then reminds herself: “If I don’t study, just keep crying, then I won’t reach my goal of being a doctor and helping Iraqis.”

— Janet I. Tu

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