PW: You were out in the field cutting hay this morning. I hope that means life is returning to normal for you?
Yes, cut a little bit, trying to keep busy. Life has already returned to normal. The situation I went through [documented in Escape in Iraq], that will never go away.
Other hostages haven't been so fortunate. After your ordeal, how do you react to such news?
It's terrible. But I watched Prime Minister Allawi today, and President Bush, and their words are my words. We can't negotiate with these people. That's the way I felt when I was there. I knew it would be devastating for my family if I didn't make it back, but I didn't want my country negotiating with these people.
Did you get a sense that your captors had an idea of what to do with you?
Well, they had a network of people. They knew they had to keep me from soldiers, and they knew to keep me moving because the soldiers were searching houses. They may have been trying to sell me. I can't say they weren't. The people that had me, they are terrorists, but I'm not going to associate them with guys like Zarqawi. At one point, one of the guys watching me put his finger up to his mouth and told me to keep quiet because one guy coming to see me was a bad Muslim. That told me they knew the difference between good and bad.
You went to Iraq out of financial necessity, but also, you say, because you had an interest in serving?
I've always been a spiritual man, but I walked away from God for a while. I could have stayed here and taken another job or two, and paid this debt off. I believe God put me through this to face the reality of where my life was. I look back on how everything had gone in my life, how I'd been struggling and working all the hours I had to make ends meet. I never asked God for help.
Captivity could never amount to a cultural exchange, but did you learn much about Iraq from this experience?
There's just so much difference between the different people that had me. Some of them were soft-spoken, others would snap out loud. I told the Iraqi surgeon who treated my arm that one day, when the country was on its feet again, I hoped I could meet him again, because through God's hands he saved my arm. Some of the ones in the beginning, they were my angels. Not the ones at the end. They meant business.
The faith you displayed throughout this ordeal is really striking, but surely you must have been terrified?
It's hard to explain. Not really. I survived the attack, and I knew we'd probably lost several men that day. But I knew that I was still alive. A lot of people don't look at little signs that tell us God is leading us, but from what I've been through, for most of my life, I started to notice. One day I had gotten out, but couldn't flag down helicopters. I sat down and thought, I've only been here a week. Some Vietnam vets were in captivity for years. So I said, God, I'm not going to be selfish. I'm going to trust in you, whatever it takes. He took away the pain and the worry. I hope and pray that other people that are in tough situations, maybe even people born with silver spoons in their mouths, realize how quickly it can all change. God tests us every day.