"If You’re An American, Stand Up!"


Former POWs Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, second from left, Sgt. James Riley, third from left, Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., third from right, and Pfc. Patrick Miller, second from right, are escorted by U.S. marines to a waiting C-130 transport plane Sunday, April 13, 2003, 60 miles south of Baghdad.

Wally Santana / AP Photo

U.S. Marines mounted the successful rescue of seven American prisoners of war in central Iraq Sunday after receiving a tip from Iraqis as to where they were being held captive. After locating the building in Tikrit, the Marines kicked the door in and shouted,"If you’re an American, stand up!"

In that instant "We stood up and they hustled us out of there," said Pfc. Patrick Miller, father of two, from Park City, Kansas.

The rescue ended a horrible three week ordeal for the soldiers. They were transported under heavy cover to a C130 plane then flown to Kuwait for medical treatment and debriefing.

Two of the seven POWs were Apache pilots: Chief Warrant Officers David S. Williams and Ronald D. Young, are members of the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation at Fort Hood, Texas. Their families today said that they had been in constant prayer for their safe return.The pilots had been captured near Karbala on March 23.

Also, on March 23rd, the five soldiers from the 507th Ordinance Maintenance Company were captured by Iraqis after they were ambushed near Nasiriyah. Sgt. James Riley said that their "weapons jammed" and wouldn’t fire–the desert sand had gotten into the weapons. The soldiers were sitting "like Custer". "We were surrounded," Riley recalled. "We had no working weapons. We couldn’t even make a bayonet charge — we would have been mowed down."

Two of the POWs were hit by gunfire and survived their wounds. Nine Americans died during that attack. At one point the POWs tried to escape after nearby explosions loosened the walls of the building where they were being held, but their Iraqi captors stopped their escape.

The five POW’s rescued Sunday are: Sgt. James J. Riley, 31, of Pennsauken, N.J.; Spc. Shoshana N. Johnson, 30, of El Paso, Texas; Spc. Edgar A. Hernandez, 21, of Mission, Texas; Spc. Joseph N. Hudson, 23, of Alamogordo, N.M.; and Pfc. Patrick W. Miller, 23, of Walter, Kansas.

Spc. Shoshana Johnson, the mother of a two year old daughter in Texas, said that at one point she believed the Iraqis were going to kill her, and now she’s elated about seeing her little girl again. "I was like, `Oh my God, I’m going home!’" exclaimed Shoshana.

Overcome with emotion, Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams said, "I thought I would never see my wife again." Early Monday, David’s wife, Michelle Williams, sent her love and said "I’m proud of my husband… I’m proud to be an American."

Michelle Williams told reporters that her faith helped her and said that she believed in her marriage and she never stopped praying for her husband’s safe return home. "I prayed for it [his rescue] and the good Lord answered my prayers," she said joyfully.

Upon hearing the news of the successful rescue, U.S. President Bush said, "Today is a great day for the families, comrades, loved ones of the seven missing in action who are free. I’m really pleased, for all those who have been praying for their safety, that they are safe.

"We still have missing in action in Iraq; we will continue to look for them. We pray that they, too, will be safe and free one of these days."

".. our fellow Americans [the seven POWS] are going to be home here pretty soon, in the arms of their loved ones."

On April 2nd, POW Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, was rescued and is now being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is also a member of the 507th.