After a four-month ordeal in a top security Mexican prison, U.S. Marine Jon Hammar came back home to his family in Palmetto Bay, Fla., Monday morning, just in time for Christmas.
Neighbors showed the Hammars their support by tying yellow ribbons on palm trees near their residence. "I can't imagine anything worse than having your kid locked up in a Mexican jail," said a neighbor interviewed by WSVN-7 in Miami.
But even though the worst may be over, the 27-year old is still recovering from a very bad chest cold and a stomach ailment he acquired in the Matamoros jail. His first stop in U.S. territory was actually a Louisiana hospital, where he was checked in and treated for the debilitating illness.
"He's still very sick, but we're taking care of him," said his father Jon Hammar, Sr. Monday to a local TV station. "We're trying to get on with the day and have a great Christmas," he added. “He can barely stand up right now.”
Last week, it was unclear whether Hammar would make it home in time for the holidays.
Hammar was headed to Costa Rica in August when he drove across the Mexican border with a friend and was arrested over an antique gun he was carrying in his luggage. U.S. authorities had told him he could declare the unloaded shotgun at the border, but once there Mexican authorities held him saying they had yet to determined whether there was an intent to commit a crime.
Hammar was sent to the Matamoros prison, where, at one point, inmates affiliated with local drug cartels telephoned Hammar’s parents to try to extort money from them.
U.S. officials intervened, and Hammar was separated from the general inmate population. But he still spent much of his time chained to a bed.
The case got national attention after the family pleaded for his release and several lawmakers, including Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla, urged the State Department to step in.