Richard Phillips, the American cargo ship captain who risked his life to save his crew in a standoff with Somali pirates, returned home to Vermont on Friday and said the true heroes were the members of the military who freed him.
Phillips, who was freed Easter Sunday by Navy snipers, landed Friday afternoon in Burlington, Vt., aboard a small blue jet chartered by his employer, the shipping company Maersk.
Embraced by his wife and daughter, Phillips gave a wave as he exited the plane at Burlington International Airport with other family members.
A few minutes later, after spending some time alone with his family, Phillips re-appeared to address reporters covering his arrival.
"I'm not a hero, the military is. Thank them." he said. "They are doing an impossible job. I would not be here without them."
Phillips also thanked his family, his crew, his company and all Americans for their prayers and support during the difficult time.
"We're just seamen, we do the best we can with what we've got," he said.
The 20-member crew of the Maersk Alabama was attacked April 8 off the coast of Somali by a band of pirates. The crew was able to regain control of the ship, and all but Phillips escaped when the captain agreed to held by the pirates in return for the release of rest.
The U.S. Navy responded to the scene, but the standoff dragged on until April 12, when Navy SEAL snipers shot and killed three of the four pirates, who were holding Phillips at gunpoint. The surviving pirate is being held by the military and expected to be tried in a U.S. court.
Phillips' wife, Andrea Phillips, said Friday this is not a typical homecoming for the family.
"This is truly one of the happiest moments of our lives — having Richard home," she said. "I've always been proud to call myself an American. Today I am even prouder."
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They now have returned home to Underhill, Vt., which was ready to herald his arrival.
The white picket fence in front of his home was festooned with homemade signs, ribbons and bows, and Phillips was to be feted at home with his favorite beer, a chicken pot pie made by a friend and brownies made by his mother-in-law.
There was no immediate plan for a parade or public celebration, owing to the family's status as somewhat reluctant celebrities.
"We're respecting the family's wishes and waiting to see what they'd like to do," said Kari Papelbon, the town's zoning administrator.
But all around town, the yellow ribbons that came to symbolize Underhill's hope during the five days of Phillips' captivity fluttered in a spring breeze, with lots of late additions as his arrival drew near.
There was a "Welcome Home Captain" sign in front of the Stitch In Time yarn shop, a "Welcome Home Captain Phillips" sign in front of Browns River Middle School and a "Welcome Home Captain Phillips" tar paper sign affixed to a red barn across the street from the family's home.
Just as telling were a pair of posterboard signs on the fence in front of Phillips' home.
"Thank You for Your Prayers," said one.
"Please Give Us Some Time as a Family," said another, a polite message to members of the media and anyone else hoping to get close.
Police also had kept people away from the airport. Still, two women inspired by the bravery of Phillips, who gave himself to the pirates as a hostage to save his Maersk Alabama crew, sat in the airport's parking lot with a sign to welcome him home: "You're a good man, Captain Phillips," it read.
"We're so, so proud of him," said Lynn Coeby, of Ripton, alongside her mother, Eleanor Coeby. "We think that he has such character and morals and ethics to potentially put his life at risk for his crew, and we wanted to be here to say we think he's a good man."
Other crew members marked homecomings this week, as well. On Sunday, just days after returning to his home in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, William Rios will be in the pews at Second St. John Baptist Church.
The Rev. Robert Jones said that he has spoken to Rios since his return and that he agreed to speak during the morning service.
Jones also said Rios told him about his ordeal in a telephone conversation.
"He was very afraid," Jones said. "He said, 'I was afraid because I didn't know what was going to happen.' He's thanking God, and we're thanking God."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.