Former Iraq Hostage Tells First Hand Account In New Book

Sitting atop a sky blue background, a yellow ribbon pin adorns Thomas Hamill's knit cotton shirt. The pin is a sign of support for soldiers fighting in a war zone that Hamill knows well.

While he sits in Mississippi today, a piece of Hamill will always remember the day he became a hostage in Iraq. Six months later, Hamill is taking readers on his personal journey.

Stoeger Publishing's "Escape In Iraq: The Thomas Hamill Story'' is the 286-page account of the former dairy farmer's 24 days as a hostage in Iraq. The book goes on sale Monday.

Hamill is marking its publication with a book-signing at Lemuria Books in Jackson. Hamill credits God with getting him through the rough ordeal.

"I'm independent. I don't like asking for any help and that includes God. I hadn't begged Him for anything, but over there there was nobody,'' Hamill told the Associated Press in an interview Friday.

"I knew the stance the government was going to take. I knew they weren't going to negotiate. I knew it was all up to me and God,'' Hamill said. "And that is the way I wanted it. I wouldn't have had it any other way.''

Co-author Paul Brown of Brandon said he was first impressed by Hamill's "no fear'' attitude.

"He was never afraid and he is not afraid to talk about it. He has no emotional scars,'' Brown said.

Brown interviewed Hamill and his family over three weeks and conducted follow-up interviews up to seven weeks to get the book out in time for Christmas.

"It is a story that will be forgotten with time. We just put the whole process on fast track and just got it done,'' Brown said.

Six months ago, Hamill was a million miles from the safe-haven of his hometown Macon. On April 9, Hamill's fuel truck convoy was ambushed on the outskirts of Baghdad. The book charts Hamill's life before and after he became a hostage.

In early chapters, Hamill described his patriotism as a youth, wanting to serve in the armed forces. He was rejected by the Marines because he suffered from seizures.

The first chapters focus on the attack on Hamill's convoy, an event that left five employees of the Houston-based Halliburton subsidiary KBR dead. Two men are still listed as missing.

As bullets flew through what he refers to in his book as "an endless kill zone,'' Hamill and fellow Halliburton employee Nelson Howell tried to drive the fuel truck to safety. As Hamill struggled to warn other convoys of the ambush through his satellite computer, a bullet blasted through the passenger side of the truck wounding him in the right arm.

The book tells of Hamill's numerous captors, which he lightheartedly gives nicknames like Moe and Curly.

Hamill told the AP that he credited his 25 years of truck driving as helping him figure out which captors to speak with and which not to even look in the eye. Hamill feels the captors that he encountered toward the beginning of his captivity were moderates - eating with him, conversing and bringing him to a doctor for surgeries on his damaged right arm.

"I would have died if I hadn't had that surgery,'' Hamill said. "The wound, the infection that I would have gotten from it would have been life threatening.''

Hamill's arm is now covered with shades of pink, though noticeably missing is a chunk of skin. In about three weeks, Hamill said he will undergo more X-rays and possible a synthetic bone graft.

Toward the end of his captivity, Hamill said the captors became more intense.

"That last six or eight days, those guys, they were just looking for an excuse to kill me,'' Hamill said.

Hamill believes that his captors were possibly trying to sell him to a larger terrorist network.

"They acted like they were trying to hide me out, not just our troops, but hide me out from some of their people,'' Hamill said.

Though dangers still exist in Iraq, Hamill said he has told KBR that he will return to Iraq, if needed.

"I am in just as much danger right here, as I would be over there,'' Hamill said. "If they want me dead, it will happen right here.''

Hamill said he is unsure if the U.S. Department of Defense would permit him to return to Iraq because soldiers taken hostage are not allowed to return. If he is unable to go back overseas to drive trucks, Hamill said KBR has said they still would like for him to work for them.

Though open to the idea, Hamill said he has no intentions of leaving Macon and the home his grandfather built in 1965.

"I'm not going to go out and build some big mansion somewhere. I'm just a working guy. I don't need something like that I am happy right where I am at,'' Hamill said.

Though he can farm or drive a truck, Hamill said he is leaving the door open to return to Iraq.

"I can't come through what I came through saying 'I put it all in God's hands' and be afraid to go back over there now,'' Hamill said.

On Tuesday, Hamill will sign books in Macon and then head to Birmingham, Ala., for additional events.

In December, he will appear as one of GQ magazine's "Men of the Year,'' which is honoring the men of Iraq.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)