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Former hostage Hamill returns home to U.S.

Former hostage Thomas Hamill, in glasses, center, arrives at a small airport near Macon, Miss., early Saturday.
Former hostage Thomas Hamill, in glasses, center, arrives at a small airport near Macon, Miss., early Saturday.MSNBC TV
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former hostage Thomas Hamill returned to American soil Saturday to a chorus of cheering family and friends, but people close to him say his thoughts are with Americans still in harm’s way in Iraq.

“Tommy is extremely concerned about his comrades in Iraq and thinking about them is his priority,” said family spokeswoman Aly Goodwin-Gregg.

The 44-year-old Hamill, and wife Kellie, spoke only to friends and relatives after returning home on a flight from Germany about 1 a.m. Saturday. They were met at the plane by about a dozen friends and neighbors; members of the media outnumbered the supporters 2 to 1.

Hamill, whose plight captured the attention of the nation, escaped his Iraqi captors Sunday and has been treated for an arm injury at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. He was wounded when his convoy was ambushed April 9.

The truck driver, who works for Halliburton Corp. subsidiary KBR, released a statement through the company Saturday, saying that he is praying for “my two missing colleagues, the safety of my friends and co-workers in Iraq as well as the families of those who have lost a loved one.”

‘I was so thrilled’
All was quiet at the Hamill home Saturday morning. Yellow police tape kept waiting media crews off the lawn, and ribbons decorated the two white columns in front of the modest brick home. Red, white and blue balloons floated atop the mail box.

Hamill’s grandmother said the family planned a cookout for Saturday afternoon. “I was so thrilled just to see Tommy back on this side. Now if he can just get a little rest,” said Vera Hamill, 92.

Hamill came out to back yard Saturday afternoon, holding up his wounded arm in greetings to those outside. He and wife Kellie then walked around, arm in arm, greeting friends and family before joining others for the meal.

Parade plans called off for now
Hamill said earlier this week that he was particularly looking forward to quiet time with his children. As a result, Macon Mayor Dorothy Baker Hines said plans for a parade and other celebrations in his hometown were called off for now.

The news was a disappointment to some in this rural east Mississippi community of about 2,500.

“They prayed and had hopes up. They are glad he’s home. They wanted to celebrate with him,” said Tina Brooks, 36.

But Jesse Green, a family friend who visited the Hamills on Saturday, said Hamill “does not want to draw any attention to himself. He does not consider himself a hero.”

Hamill offered movie and book deals
After meeting with his family, one of the first things Hamill will have to deal with are letters and calls offering him movie and book deals.

“He’s got mail about movie deals and all sorts of things,” his mother, Phyllis Hamill, said Friday.

Hamill has made no decision about a book deal, said Stephen Goodwin, another family spokesman and part of the public relations team hired by former POW Jessica Lynch. Lynch received a book deal valued at $1 million and a network turned her story into a television movie.

There were no plans for any public statements by Hamill, said Goodwin-Gregg. She said Hamill “doesn’t want to say or do anything the might incite action” against other captives.

“Right now, he just wants to enjoy time with his family,” she said.

Some Macon residents are happy that the media attention is receding now that Hamill is home.

“I’m glad all the commotion is over,” said 76-year-old Annie Hunter. “It has been an ordeal for all of us.”

Hamill was among seven American contractors who disappeared after the April attack. The bodies of four have been found, and two workers remain missing. Two military men also vanished; one was later found dead and the other, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, remains missing.