- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

EL PASO, Texas, April 19 (UPI) — Seven American soldiers came home from Iraq Saturday night, recovered prisoners of war who were cheered by hundreds of family and friends as their military transport plane rolled to a stop.

Two U.S. military men flew the American flag from atop the transport plane, able to reach its roof through a hatch and so energizing the crowd at Fort Bliss even more.

Cameras carried the scenes across the country and beyond as the massive C-17 transport rolled to a halt as cameras carried the scene across the country.

The crowd held American flags large and small behind the rope line as they watched the plane approach, stop and eventually saw the returnees carried away on what looked like a huge golf cart.

Five of the seven had been shown briefly on Iraqi television but were otherwise out of sight for three weeks after their March 23 capture. Nine others in the maintenance unit had been killed.

Their unit, charged with keeping the tanks and other vehicles running as they streamed north into Iraq, had apparently taken a wrong turn in the early days of the war, into enemy hands.

Two others on the plane, who had been captured the next day, were crewmen taken into custody by Iraqis after their Apache helicopter had to land. They get a second welcome when they continue on to Fort Hood.

On April 13 the seven were found north of Baghdad, abandoned by fleeing Iraqi guards.

Pfc. Jessica Lynch, captured at the same time, had been rescued separately in a raid April 1 pulled off with the help of an Iraqi who told U.S. soldiers she was being held and how to find her. She is being treated for her extensive injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Shoshana Johnson, 30, is an El Paso native, the only one for whom Fort Bliss is a hometown location. Shot through both ankles, her return was particularly poignant because the Iraqi TV camera had caught her in close up as she was interrogated, a scene that became one of the most memorable of the many war images.

Also on the plane were Sgt. James Riley, 31, of Pennsauken, N.J.; Pfc. Edward Hernandez, 21, Mission, Texas; Spc Joseph Hudson, 23, Alamogordo, N.M., and Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, Park City, Kan..

The two helicopter crew were Chief Warrant Officer David Williams, 30, of Orlando, Fla. and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Young Jr., 26, of Lithia Springs, Ga.



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