(FinalCall.com) – After 22 days of captivity in the Iraqi desert, the seven prisoners of war whose images were first seen on Iraqi television and then in worldwide publications were amazingly rescued April 13.
Two POWs, pilots based at Fort Hood, Texas, were captured March 23 after small-arms fire forced their Apache helicopter down in central Iraq. The remaining five, all members of an Army maintenance unit based at Fort Bliss, Texas, were captured the same day after an Iraqi ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
The only female in the group of young army personnel, Spc. Shoshanna Johnson, 30, a chef from Fort Bliss, Texas, is a Black single mother of a 2-year-old. According to reports, Marines said she was limping and bandaged due to gunshots in her ankles. Nevertheless, her family is joyous to have her alive, although wounded.
“We are ecstatic that not only Shoshanna but all POWs are back on U.S. camp,” said Claude Johnson, her father. “We thank God for looking after them and for the worldwide prayers for her safety.”
The rescued pilots were Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, from Georgia, and Officer David S. Williams, 30, from Florida. Among Fort Bliss’ 507th Ordinance Maintenance Company along with Spc. Johnson were Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, from Kansas; Sergeant James Riley, 31, from New Jersey; Joseph Hudson, 23, and Spc. Edgar Hernandez, 21, both from Texas.
In exclusive telephone interviews with The Final Call, two families shared some of the content of the first conversations with their recently released relatives.
In Alamogordo, N.M., Anecita Hudson cried while watching a Filipino news channel that showed Iraqi news footage of her 23-year-old son, Joseph, bound and bloody in captivity. But she admitted that she has not stopped crying tears of joy after she saw a video of Joseph walking after his rescue by the Marines.
“I’m overwhelmed … happy. I’m really happy. I’m so glad God put it in someone’s heart to turn him over,” she shared.
His wife, Natalie, said that they were not able to have a long conversation but that he sounded good. He talked to their five-year-old daughter Cameron, as well as her sister, who first told her over the telephone about the rescue, before an Army casualty officer brought the news to her door.
“He sounded well. Like the joy that he is,” she said. “My daughter told him, ‘Mommy is going to come and pick you up and bring you home, ” she recounted with a gentle ripple of laughter.
The Hernandez home in Mission, Tex., has been flooded with members of the community stopping by to deliver gifts, warm wishes and prayers for a safe return of 21-year-old Edgar. His mother, Maria De La Cruz, told local reporters that she was so happy that she felt her heart wanted to burst out of her chest. Speaking in Spanish, she said, “I’m going to have a heart attack here with so much happiness.”
His younger brother, Joel, 19, admitted to us that he was extremely anxious to see his brother and can’t wait until the whole family flies out for the reunion.
“He said he was OK and told us not to worry, that he was safe,” Joel said, adding that, “He said he was real happy to be free.”
Although the rescued POWs wil be taken to a military hospital in Washington, D.C. before their long anticipated reunions with their loved ones, they were permitted to speak to their families during an initial stop in Kuwait. However, the Army instructed all parties not to discuss over the telephone what happened to them in Iraq.