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Ex-hostage reunited with wife


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Hamill waves to reporters Tuesday outside the U.S. military hospital.
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Thomas Hamill's hometown prepares for a hero's welcome.

Kellie Hamill, wife of U.S. contractor Thomas Hamill, talks with CNN's Bob Franken.

U.S. soldiers describe how they discovered Hamill after his escape from Iraqi captors.

U.S. contractor Thomas Hamill, missing since last month in Iraq, escapes his captors.
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Thomas Hamill

LANDSTUHL, Germany (CNN) -- Days after a dramatic escape from his Iraqi captors, Thomas Hamill has had what U.S. medical officials called a "very emotional" reunion with his wife at a military hospital in Germany.

Hamill, from the American state of Mississippi, is receiving treatment at Landstuhl Medical Center for a forearm injury sustained during nearly a month in captivity.

The truck driver for KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, was held by Iraqi insurgents who ambushed his convoy on April 9. He was recovered by U.S. forces on Sunday and later flown to Germany, the first leg on his journey home.

Shortly after being reuniting on Wednesday with his wife Kellie and his Uncle Jerry, who had flown to meet him, Hamill issued a statement thanking his family, doctors, and asking for some privacy.

"Please continue to pray for all the civilians, soldiers, hostages and my friends and colleagues who are still missing as well as their families that are going through these difficult times," Hamill said.

He said he felt "more comfortable and closer to home" after his wife brought him his favorite cowboy boots, jeans and bright red shirt. He also asked her to cook him a steak dinner and chocolate cake for dinner, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw said.

Hamill and his wife are expected to leave Landstuhl by the end of the week, Shaw said.

On Tuesday, Hamill waved a cast-covered arm to reporters outside the medical center and said he was "feeling well."

He said he was having "few problems" with his injury, described earlier Tuesday as an 18 by 10 cm "open injury" on his right forearm by his Army surgeon, Maj. Kerry Jepsen.

The 43-year-old will require further surgery, Jepsen said, but should have a full recovery and will be able to return home as soon as his debriefings are complete.

Hamill was one of seven KBR employees reported missing after the April 9 attack. Four were later found dead, and two are still missing. A soldier in the convoy, Sgt. Elmer Krause, 40, was also confirmed dead. The fate of Pfc. Keith Maupin, 20, remains unknown.

Also being held hostage are two Canadian businessmen and three Italian security personnel, Kimmitt said. A French news reporter, a German Embassy security official and a Jordanian businessman are also missing.

After nearly a month in captivity, Hamill fled a remote farmhouse near Balad on Sunday morning when he heard the distinct sounds of an American patrol's diesel engines "and decided this was the time to try to secure his freedom," Jepsen said.

The patrol was a half mile away when Hamill squeezed out the door.

"He describes he was running and opened up his shirt to show his white skin because he wanted them to know he was American," Jepsen said.

"He said he stumbled a couple of times and got up and yelled 'American, POW.' He knew they couldn't hear him with the machinery running, but he kept screaming those two words."

The soldiers in the patrol -- a New York National Guard company searching for a break in an oil pipeline -- saw Hamill running towards them and said Monday they initially thought he was an Iraqi farmer.

"He came out in the field, and he actually took his shirt off and waved his shirt in the air," Second Lt. Joseph Merrill said. "As he got closer, we heard he was speaking English."

"And the first man who walked up to him realized immediately that it was Mr. Hamill," Merrill said.

Jepsen said Hamill was injured during the attack on his convoy.

"He recalls a pop blast, motion and sound from his door and burning on his forearm," the doctor said. "He treated the injury by controlling the bleeding with a pair of socks that he had on the dashboard."

He also had a small bruise on the right side of his head, courtesy of an Iraqi insurgent's blow with a rifle butt.

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Hamill shakes hands with U.S. troops after his escape.

"He did not receive treatment early on (from his captors)," Jepsen said, "but at about day seven or eight, medical personnel looked at the wounds" and took him to a medical clinic, where he was put under anesthesia while damaged skin and tissue were removed."

Jepsen said Hamill had some memory loss around this time, which the doctor said was "not uncommon" with the use of anesthesia.

Jepsen said the wound on his forearm included some muscle and skin damage and loss of bone, but that the nerves were working normally and "should have good function" when surgeries are complete, a process he said would likely take about three months.

Hamill told Jepsen that he stayed at one location nor more than four days at a time, and occasionally moved every day. He was typically kept in a small room with a dirt floor.

"That was my concern as far as his injuries were concerned," Jepsen said. "It was a fairly dirty environment."

Jepsen said Hamill described restless sleep plagued by mosquitos the night before his escape.

"They would never let him out in daylight hours," Jepsen said, instead waking him just before dawn for a bathroom break.

On Sunday, Jepsen said, he fell back asleep after that, and awoke to the sounds of the American engines.

While doctors believe Hamill will make a full recovery from his physical injuries, Jepsen said they were making arrangements for psychological attendants to accompany him on the trip home.

"We have a team of specialists, trained experts that are counseling and debriefing him in helping him to understand and deal with this experience and ordeal," he said.


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