Local man just misses getting Saddam

On leave with a two-week pass home for the holidays, Army Specialist Novelli Hall has plenty to brag about to his family.

The 20-year-old East Duplin High Graduate is a member of the Fourth Infantry Division -- or 4th ID -- stationed in Tikrit.

And while he was literally on his flight home over the weekend, his friends and fellow soldiers from the same division were pulling Saddam from a spider hole.

"I couldn't be there, but I'm so proud of them," Hall said. "I'm celebrating here, too, because I'm still there with them.

Hall has a photo of himself standing in front of Saddam's palace in Tikrit, ironically just across the river from where the former tyrant had been hiding in squalor.

Saddam's capture is a shot in the arm for American forces in Iraq. Since major combat operations ended, Hall says securing the country hasn't been easy.

"We've got the big fish," he said, smiling. "But there are plenty of other smaller fishes out there to catch."

Three days after Christmas, Hall will leave to rejoin his division in Iraq.