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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
Thomas Hamill profile
Tommy Hamill, aged 44, is a third-generation dairy farmer from Mississippi who went to Iraq as a truck driver for the company Halliburton in April 2004. He was working on a fuel convoy delivering supplies to the US forces stationed around Baghdad when they came under attack by insurgents.

Thomas Hammill with American soldier
... When I got to them I knew it was over then
Tommy Hammill
"Something hit our trailer, I don't know whether it was a roadside bomb went off as we went by or an RPG hit it. The truck kind of rocked really violently... I'm looking down the highway at all this black smoke as far as I can see, trucks turned over and burning and on fire and I'm thinking how many of my guys didn't make it through this."

He was badly wounded in the arm and taken hostage for three weeks. During this time he was moved from house to house and kept in chains. His captors threatened to kill him unless the USA stopped their siege on Falluja.

He managed to escape from his kidnappers after hearing the sound of American troops on patrol outside the building where he was held. He was flown back to the US where he was reunited with his wife Kellie and two children.

"I felt sure I could get out of that building, it was just a frame leaned up against the door. And I grabbed a hold of it and it just slid to one side and I stepped through and started across that field and then I'm thinking, you know... what are the rules of engagement today?"

"I've got a beard and I'm scruffy looking. Are they going to think it's a suicide bomber running across the field at them? Then I started saying I'm an American POW, American POW, and when I started saying that, probably four or five of them that were closest to me started walking in my direction and then when I got to them I knew it was over then."

The following passage is an extract from Tommy's book, "Escape in Iraq", reproduced courtesy of The book is Tommy's own account of his experience as a hostage and of escaping:

"The Guards on Death Row arrived at the house about 45 minutes before daylight and escorted me outside to go to the bathroom. We walked about 30 yards before stopping next to a ditch in between some short trees. They allowed me to walk ahead into the bushes leaving them far enough behind that I thought, It is still dark, and I can probably silently slip through the trees and get several hundred yards away before they realize I'm gone. Then I can run and find a car to hot-wire. The idea stayed with me only briefly. After considering that I had no idea where I was or how to get to safety, I dismissed thenotion just as quickly as I thought about it. When we got back inside, one of the men handed me a square metal vegetable-oil can approximately 10 inches square and 16 inches tall. The top of the can had been cut out."

"He mimicked the act of urinating into it and demanded, "Use this." No doubt, that meant I would be in that room for a long while. They left behind only Pepsi and water to drink. A breakfast of clabbered milk and bread was waiting on the dirt floor. Still not accustomed to the whole clabbered milk idea, I lightly dipped the bread into the milk product, even tapped off the excess, and ate mostly bread. The guards watched every bite. After I finished eating, one of the men pointed to his hip then to mine wanting to know if I had given myself a morning shot. I said, "no" and proceeded to mix the saline with the powder. They wanted to watch, so I lowered my pants and injected the medicine. That set of guards didn't act like they would tolerate much, so I tried to explain my problem with seizures to them. I even acted out a seizure to get them to understand. They said nothing, simply staring at me like I was a man possessed with demons."

"Their duties completed, they left for the morning. It wasn't clear where they went or what they did while they were gone. No one stayed there watching or guarding the house between meals or at night. Their day was probably spent at one of the houses down the road. The only reasonthey returned was to bring food. Soon after the guards were gone, I began the painful chore of stripping off the old gauze dressing from around my injury. Blotting the area liberally with peroxide was all I could do to treat the wound since the iodine had been left at my last location. I prepared myself for the day by reciting the 23rd Psalm quietly, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. The room slowly warmed to an angry oven heat. The only ventilation in the room was a tiny hole in the wall, about one inch in diameter, above the bricked-up window. The room was akin to the inside of a car that had been sitting in the sun, with the windows rolled up tight, on a 90-degree Southern summer day. It must have been 120 to 130 degrees in the room most of the day. I was not going to drink the Pepsi. While in training with KBR in Houston, we were taught that caffeine is a diuretic, which removes fluids from the body by making people urinate more than normal, and that can speed up dehydration. I experienced such severe dehydration those first days of captivity that I thought death was imminent. I only drank the water they left behind each day. I did not want to offend them, though, by not drinking the Pepsi, so I poured some of it into the urine can. Each time they came in they would point to the Pepsi bottle and ask if I was drinking it. I would say "yes." Each morning I would take the can outside and dump its contents into the ditch."

"To avoid dehydration I limited my movement and sat on the pad staring at the wall most of the day. With no window or crack in a door to look outside, I became bored stiff. I had to occupy my mind with positive thoughts and not dwell on the heat, The Guards on Death Row, or what was going to happen next. The dogs barking in the distance reminded me of pleasant days of my childhood. Growing up in the country instilled an appreciation for the outdoors. I learned at an early age to enjoy fishing, hunting, and camping. I had not had the opportunity to hunt in a long time. I had been working too hard and too many jobs to have the time to go. I missed the camaraderie of being with my family and friends, the raw simplicity of a rabbit hunt, the baying of the hounds, and the 10-mile walks. "

Thomas Hamill on the legacy of being taken hostage


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