MACON, Miss. (BP)–A “parade that never ends” and other homecoming celebration plans the small town of Macon, Miss., had envisioned for their hero, Thomas Hamill, have been called off at his request.
“The city of Macon has been informed by the Hamill family that they prefer not to have any type of celebration for Mr. Tommy Hamill’s homecoming,” Macon Mayor Dorothy Baker-Hines said in a statement May 6.
Hamill, an American contractor held hostage in Iraq for 23 days, escaped May 2 and has been recovering at a U.S. military hospital in Germany and reunited with his wife, Kellie. She arrived May 5 with his favorite cowboy boots, red shirt and jeans and cooked him a steak dinner and chocolate cake, according to the Associated Press. The two celebrated his 44th birthday May 6.
His next priority, Hamill said, is to return home to Macon and hug his children. But when he returns, he wants a chance to quietly readjust to life without the pressures of media attention.
“My recovery is definitely improving now that my wife, Kellie, is here with me,” Hamill said in a statement. “My only plan now is to go home as soon as possible and spend some quality, private time with my family.”
Another concern he voiced is that news of a homecoming celebration will make it back to Iraq and worsen the ongoing hostage situation.
“He told Kellie he would be reluctant about something like that because there were others over there still being held and he didn’t want it getting back over there that he was welcomed like some type of hero,” his mother, Phyllis Hamill, said, according to the AP. “He was afraid it might hurt the situation.”
Two of Hamill’s coworkers who disappeared when their convoy was attacked April 9 are still missing. The bodies of four have been found. A U.S. soldier kidnapped in the same attack, Pfc. Keith Maupin, was seen in video footage as a hostage.
“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 this difficult time,” Hamill said in his May 5 statement.
Hamill had earlier indicated he might approve of a parade after his family had time to adjust if it “celebrated answered prayer,” his mother told the AP. Some ideas for the homecoming celebration had included visits from Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz.; Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi; Christian music artist Michael W. Smith and country music singer Hank Williams Jr.
But instead, people in Macon will continue their nightly prayer vigils at the local courthouse, lifting up requests on behalf of those who are still missing and those who are involved in the ongoing action of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Hamill and his wife are expected to return to Macon this weekend, although specifics are being kept secret to ensure their privacy as much as possible.