Former POWs Meet The Press

Former U.S. POWs Sgt. James Riley, Pfc Patrick Miller, Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Young, Spc Shoshana Johnson, Chief Warrant Officer David Williams, Spc Edgar Hernandez and Spc Joseph Hudson, from left, wave from a balcony at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, southern Germany, Friday, April 18, 2003. They were rescued Sunday, April 13, in Iraq and taken to Landstuhl two days ago. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Seven American POWs emerged Friday for the first time from the hospital where they are recovering from their ordeals in Iraq.

The seven made a even brief appearance on the balcony of their military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

"We're looking forward to coming home as soon as we possibly can," Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams said. "I'd just like to remind everyone to say a special prayer for all those who are still fighting on the American fence."

Fellow POW Shoshana Johnson came out in a wheelchair, but stood up with the help of two of her comrades.

The hospital's director says three of the Americans had gunshot wounds, but the injuries don't appear serious. He says their prognosis is "excellent," their appetites are good, and they're sleeping well.

The POWs were freed Sunday by U.S. Marines south of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and taken to Kuwait, where they underwent initial medical checks and debriefings before heading to Germany.

The five U.S. Army soldiers and two Apache helicopter pilots who arrived late Wednesday spent most of the day with doctors, psychologists and a chaplain, going over their experiences during the three weeks they spent in Iraqi captivity, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw said.

In their free time, they made calls home to their families.

Five of the freed prisoners were comrades of former POW Jessica Lynch from the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Support Company, which was ambushed in southern Iraq. The other two were helicopter pilots from the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment.

Meanwhile, Lynch wants people to know she appreciates the get-well cards. But she also says the flowers, candy and other gifts are getting a bit overwhelming.

Lynch is recovering from several wounds and injuries she suffered in Iraq. She's been at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington since Saturday.

While Lynch is welcoming more cards and letters, she has told hospital officials she'd like to discourage more gifts of T-shirts, stuffed animals and fruit baskets.

Lynch's family is suggesting that people make cash donations to Army Emergency Relief, The American Red Cross, the Air Force Aid Society or the Navy and Marine Corps Aid Society or other service charities. They say those groups have long histories of helping former prisoners of war and the families of wounded military personnel.

None of the seven was expected to remain long at Landstuhl, according to Col. Bob Roland, an Army clinical psychologist who is familiar with the hospital's procedure of dealing with former POWs.

Roland said the recommended period of such treatment at that facility is four days, but said it varies for each patient.

He said it is natural that the seven former POWs formed bonds through their ordeal, and that they are eager to stick together even now, including wanting to return home together.

"It is my understanding that they want to fly them all together back to the U.S.," said Roland, a clinical psychologist at the National Defense University at Fort McNair.

The freed members of the 507th Maintenance Support Company ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasariyah on March 23 are Spc. Johnson, Spc. Edgar Hernandez; Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23, Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, and Sgt. James Riley, 31.

The pilots are Chief Warrant Officer Williams, 30, and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26.

Landstuhl is the largest U.S. military hospital outside the United States, and so far has treated nearly 250 patients with battlefield injuries from the war in Iraq.