She arrived in Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, as part of the first reinforcements after the US-led invasion. At the battle of Fallujah, and later at Najaf and Sadr City, she treated the American wounded and pulled dog tags from the dead, often finding pictures of loved ones tucked deep inside vests.
She also saw the challenges facing Iraqi women. During one raid, her commanding officer asked her to remove her protective gear and let her hair down to show an insurgent that a woman had helped captured him. With Norley revealed, the man screamed, “Kill me now!”
Later, when insurgents issued a reward for an American blonde, Norley cut her hair and dyed it black.
At the end of her 16-month tour, she carried home harrowing war stories but also hopeful memories—the relationships she’d built with villagers, the kids she’d taught the chicken dance, the talk she’d had with the women at the university.
This March, she watched President Bush honor an international group of women at the White House. One of them, Eaman Al-Gobory—who had been lauded for her work helping sick and wounded children in Iraq get care abroad—looked familiar. At the reception afterward, Norley approached her: “Have we met before?”
Al-Gobory smiled. “You spoke to our class in Iraq,” she said. “I want you to know we’ll never forget what you said.”