SAN ANTONIO – Three Americans freed after being held more than five years by rebels in Colombia gave thanks Saturday and urged people to not forget other hostages who were left behind.
They headed home to Florida after 10 days of treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.
"We're going to go home now, we're going to rest, we're going to unwind for about a month and a half," said Marc Gonsalves, who boarded a plane with Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell.
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The men had been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, since their drug surveillance plane went down in the jungle in February 2003.
They were rescued by the Colombian military on July 2, when undercover agents tricked the leftist rebels into handing them over. Kidnapped presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 11 Colombian police and soldiers also were released.
Stansell, Gonsalves and Howes faced reporters before boarding the plane, but asked for privacy after they return home.
"Remember that today, for the first time, we're going home. There's family members that are waiting for us," Stansell said. "Just imagine if you hadn't seen your family in 5 1/2 years. ... Let us go home and be family men again."
Stansell, who along with Gonsalves proudly displayed a new Florida driver's licenses, urged people — the media in particular — to remember the hostages still being held by FARC.
"Don't forget the people that are still there," Stansell said. "Because of our rescue, there are fellow hostages that are still there. Some have 10 years — right this minute, right this minute, they're in chains, looking for food and they're on the run. Their families haven't seen them for 10 years."
The men, employees of a Northrop Grumman Corp. subsidiary, were brought to Brooke Army Medical Center for a voluntary "reintegration process."
Col. Jackie Hayes, chief of pulmonary and critical care at Brooke Army Medical Center, said at a Monday news conference that the men "in general fared very well" and that examinations have "not revealed any significant medical problems."
"At this time we believe that they are all very healthy," Hayes said Monday.