Freed U.S. Hostages Provide Independence Day Message
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 7, 2008 American contractors Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, who’d been among 15 hostages held for more than five years in Colombia by leftist rebels until their July 2 rescue by the Colombian military, released the following public statement on July 4 through U.S. Army South, as provided by the unit’s commander, Army Maj. Gen. Keith M. Huber:
“First, we want to assure everyone that we’re all doing fine. Words alone can never possibly express the thrill and excitement we feel to be back home in the United States of America with our families at our side.
“There are obviously many people we want to thank. Most of all, we want to thank our families: for their patience, for their love and for their support. For five and a half long years, we all hoped and prayed this day would come. Now that it has, we’re just overwhelmed with emotion. The love and the joy we’re all experiencing is beyond description.
“Next, we want to offer our heartfelt thanks to the government and the Armed Forces of Colombia. The operation they conducted to rescue us was one for the history books—something we will never forget for the rest of our lives.
“Colombia is a great nation with a great people, and the struggle they have endured with the FARC for more than 40 years is a shining testament to their great spirit: like the loved ones here with us now, they never gave up in the belief that human kindness and decency would ultimately prevail. To all those still held in captivity, our prayers and our thoughts are with you and your loved ones. We haven’t forgotten you, and we never will.
“To our employer, Northrop Grumman, our sincere appreciation for your dedication and consistent support to our precious families throughout this ordeal.
“Finally, we want to recognize our own United States Government who never forgot us, as evidenced by the tireless efforts of the superb team of men and women in the United States Embassy, Bogotá, Colombia. Specifically, here at Fort Sam Houston, we want to thank General Huber of United States Army South, General Gilman of the Brooke Army Medical Center, Col. Martinson of Garrison, Fort Sam Houston, and their staffs, for the warm hospitality they’ve provided us and our families. The personal and professional concern they have taken in our well-being is deeply touching, and the reintegration process they are conducting on our behalf is worthwhile and important. We are all obviously eager to return home, but first we want to complete this entire process so we can return to our lives in the best physical and emotional shape possible.
“We understand that a lot of people are eager to see and hear from us, and they will. But right now, more than anything, we just want to be with our loved ones. We ask that the media respect our privacy as we reunite with our families. Rest assured, we will respond to your questions in the near future.
“Today, in the United States of America, it is the Fourth of July: the day when Americans everywhere celebrate our independence. We can’t think of a better time to thank our fellow citizens for never giving up on us, for never forgetting us, for always believing that we would, one day, return home to the country we love.
“From the three of us and from our families, Happy Fourth of July.”