- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

EL PASO, Texas (AP) A military transport plane carrying seven former U.S. prisoners of war landed yesterday at Fort Bliss to cheers from flag-waving family and friends, one week after they were rescued in Iraq.
Thousands of well-wishers hoisted American flags and burst into cheers as the C-17 plane landed on a wind-swept runway. Two servicemen poked their heads through a hatch on top of the plane, holding an American flag and waving to the crowd as the plane taxied along the tarmac.
After a private reception and dinner of submarine sandwiches, cookies and pink lemonade, the 507th soldiers were to spend the night at the post to undergo evaluation by doctors from nearby William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
Five of the former POWs are stationed with the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company. Two other Apache helicopter crewmen, who are with the 1st Cavalry Division, will continue to their home base at Fort Hood.
The seven, who had been held captive for three weeks, were rescued April 13 after Iraqi captors abandoned their posts ahead of advancing American troops.
El Paso Mayor Raymond Caballero said there will be a parade for the five soldiers from the Army's 507th, but not until "the time is appropriate."
"We don't want to get in their lives until they're ready for it," Mr. Caballero said. "But they also understand that people are very happy to have them back."
The Fort Bliss soldiers were captured and nine comrades were killed in an attack near Nasiriyah on March 23. Another member of the 507th, Pfc. Jessica Lynch, was rescued separately in a daring commando raid April 1 and continues to recuperate in Washington.
Returning to Fort Bliss yesterday were Spc. Edgar Hernandez, 21, Mission, Texas; Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23, Alamogordo, N.M.; Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 30, El Paso; Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23, Park City, Kan., and Sgt. James Riley, 31, Pennsauken, N.J.
El Paso was awash in yellow ribbons, but the ribbons at the northeast El Paso home of Spc. Johnson's parents were purple, her favorite color.
Neighbor Tina Banston visited briefly because her 6-year-old daughter, Delaney, wanted to give a teddy bear to Spc. Johnson's 2-year-old daughter.
"I'm almost in tears because this is so exciting," Mrs. Banston said. "We've all gone through so much just worrying about her."
The Fort Hood soldiers rescued are Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, 30, of Orlando, Fla., and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, of Lithia Springs, Ga. The Apache helicopter pilots were forced down in Iraq on March 24.
President Bush, who was spending the Easter weekend with his family at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, said this Easter and Passover have special meaning for the families of those in the military.
About 250,000 Americans in uniform remain deployed in the Persian Gulf, and the loved ones of 128 American service members the Pentagon says have been killed in the conflict are grieving the loss.
"America mourns those who have been called home, and we pray that their families will find God's comfort and God's grace," Mr. Bush said.
"His purposes are not always clear to us, yet this season brings a promise: that good can come out of evil, that hope can arise from despair, and that all our grief will someday turn to joy, a joy that can never be taken away," he said.
Today, Mr. Bush and perhaps some family members planned to helicopter to Fort Hood, an Army base about 50 miles south of the ranch, for Easter services. Around half the 42,000 personnel based at Fort Hood are in Iraq.

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