Hamill attends church service, calls escape 'truly a miracle'

MACON, Miss. (BP)--In an attempt to return to a normal life in his hometown of Macon, Miss., Thomas Hamill attended a morning worship service at Calvary Baptist Church with his family and supporters May 9.

Greg Duncan, pastor of Calvary Baptist, told the congregation of more than 100 that he thanked God for the family's strength and on Mother's Day called Kellie Hamill "a special mother" for her fortitude through her husband's ordeal as an American hostage in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.

The Hamills arrived in Macon early Saturday morning on a flight from Germany and were met by a small gathering of family and friends. Later in the day, the Hamills had a cookout in their backyard to celebrate his homecoming and his 44th birthday.

Also on his first day home, Hamill gave his first televised interview with Fox News, calling the resolution to his captivity a miracle.

"It's just wonderful to be back standing on some ground that I'm used to being on," he said. "It's wonderful. Being with my family and friends and knowing how much they supported me through this whole thing. It's truly wonderful and truly a miracle."

Hamill described the April 9 ambush on his fuel convoy as horrific and said he passed the time in captivity by praying.

"I had no control over anything that was being done to me. I was not treated as badly as I thought I was going to be, but still, the mental stress from not knowing from one day to the next whether they were going to kill me ...," Hamill said on Fox. "And I was just praying daily, several times a day, just for the mental and physical strength to get through it. I was just looking at one day at a time, and I asked the Lord to find a time and a place and a day in the future. And that Sunday morning, He had that day picked out. And that was the day I bounded for freedom."

Recounting how he was moved at least a dozen times during the 23 days he was held, Hamill said he never gave up hope but recalled the images he had seen of prisoners of war during Vietnam.

"I remembered the Vietnam veterans on the freedom ride home from Hanoi," he said. "And I said these men, they were truly heroes. They put up with tremendous torture. They were there for years and years and I've only been here for just a few days, and I just kept telling myself, 'If these men can put up with it, I'm going to take whatever they give me.'"

Hamill said he continues to pray for the American soldier held captive in Iraq, Pfc. Keith Matthew Maupin, who disappeared during the same convoy attack as Hamill.

"I'm praying every day that he's still alive and I hope he can be as resilient and as faithful, and he's hanging in there just as I did," he said on Fox.

Hamill voiced support for President Bush and his leadership in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"That was the main reason I went over there. President Bush has made me proud to be an American," he said. "We're making a stand and we're doing the right thing."

He also said he would be willing to return to Iraq to help "get that country back on its feet" if he could reach an agreement with his wife and children.

KTRK-TV in Houston reported Hamill plans to travel to Houston May 11 to meet with his employers with the Halliburton subsidiary of Kellogg, Brown and Root. He also is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Astros game that night.

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