Freed POWs Ready To Go Home

.S. Army Spc. Edgar Hernandez, 21, of Mission, Texas, left, Army Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23, center, of Almagordo, N.M., and Army Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, of Park City, Kan., all of the 507th Maintenance Company, and who have been held as POW's by Iraqi forces since March 23 when their convoy was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, are escorted on to a waiting C-130 transport plane, Sunday, April 13, 2003, 60 miles south of Baghdad.
The seven U.S. prisoners of war rescued in Iraq phoned their families and were examined by doctors Thursday as they prepared for their return home.

Doctors at the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center said the former POWs were in good health, said Marie Shaw, a spokeswoman at the facility. All but one are able to walk.

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, Shaw said.

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

U.S. Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 30, who suffered shots to her foot during the ambush, remained in a wheelchair Thursday. Also wounded was Spc. Edgar Hernandez, 21, who was shot in the elbow. The others did not appear to have serious physical injuries, officials said.

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.

At the Landstuhl facility, the group also gathered to eat together, Shaw said. She didn't know what was on the menu, but said the hospital did not serve them the kinds of food they ate in captivity.

"I can tell you they didn't have any chicken or rice," Shaw said.

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 Nasiriyah on March 23 are Johnson, Hernandez; Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23, Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, and Sgt. James Riley, 31.

The pilots are Chief Warrant Officer David S. 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.