A Georgia high school student had an emotional reunion Thursday with a U.S. veteran who helped her family flee from Iraq when she was just a month old.

Lava Barwari was 36 days old when her parents were trying to flee Iraq in December 1996, then ruled by Saddam Hussein. The Kurdish family was one of many that found themselves on the dictator’s kill list.

Lava’s mother, Awaz, was on the list of Kurds allowed to leave Iraq, but an official told her that newborn Lava was not.

“I told the man I was not leaving without my baby,” Barwari told Fox 5 Atlanta. “He said I could leave her with other family in Iraq or not leave Iraq. So I said I wasn’t leaving.”

At that point Lt. Col. Greg Pepin intervened

“I told them if the baby’s name was ‘Greg,’ she could come with me under my passport,” Pepin told Fox 5 Atlanta. “They didn’t understand what I was trying to do at first, but then they realized I was trying to help.”

The family were able to leave Iraq that day, grateful to the man who they say saved their lives.

Leva tracked Pepin down recently and emailed him through Boeing, where he now works, and invited him to her high school graduation.

“I’m proud to live in a country that welcomes people in and helps them live a better life,” Pepin said.

Click for more from Fox 5 Atlanta.