FORT HOOD, Texas – After nearly three anguished weeks, Michelle Williams finally got her day of "sheer joy": Her husband, Chief Warrant Officer David Williams, is no longer a prisoner of war in Iraq and he will be coming home.
"There was a burden lifted from my heart and from his family's heart," a smiling Williams said Monday at Fort Hood in her first news conference since her husband's capture last month.
On TV, she has seen images of her 30-year-old husband -- thinner, bearded, but seemingly healthy.
"I saw relief in his eyes and that meant the world to me," she said.
The Pentagon confirmed Sunday that seven soldiers -- six men and one woman -- had been found after being formally listed as POWs. The group included five soldiers from the Army's 507th Maintenance Company at Fort Bliss, Texas, and the two downed Apache helicopter pilots.
One of the pilots was Williams. Since his capture, the only glimpse his wife had of him was video shown on Iraqi television in which her husband and fellow Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young stare wide-eyed at their captors, looking confused. Michelle Williams obtained a copy of the video from a news organization and watched it over and over.
Her 2-year-old son, Jason, relied on a message his father filmed for him and his 6-month-old sister, Madison, the morning before he shipped out to the Persian Gulf in January.
"I could probably tell you word for word what's on that video because I've seen it so many times," Michelle Williams said. "That's how we handled it."
She never told her young son his father was a prisoner of war.
"Daddy's at work," she would say. "He's flying helicopters and he's far, far away. He won't be a home for a long time."
Then, every night, mother and son would "make a steeple," with their hands and pray before bed.
"I didn't want any false hopes," said the 27-year-old Williams, herself a chief warrant officer and Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the same 1st Cavalry Division as her husband. "There were times when it really, it got me and it got me down."
But joy spread across the nation Sunday as word spread that the POWs had been found. In Lithia Springs, Ga., Young's family said they will have a steak dinner waiting when he returns, whenever that happens.
"We're most thankful to the Marines who got them," said Kaye Young, the soldier's mother. "They're all heroes."
In Pennsauken, N.J., officials are planning a parade and fireworks display when Army Sgt. James Riley, 31, comes home.
Maj. Nathan Banks, the military liaison to Riley's family, said Riley would likely be flown to the United States from Germany by Wednesday and could be home by the end of the week.
Michelle Williams finally heard her husband's voice Sunday over the phone. "I was so teary, he probably didn't understand anything I said," she said.
But after a few minutes, their voices calmed one another and David Williams began to tell of his ordeal.
"And I said sweetie, you don't have to tell me anything," she said. "When you're really ready to talk, when we can be together, you can talk. I'm here to listen."