Was it your impression, having encountered them, that they were looking for
you--that they hadn't just come across you?|
It really looked to me that we surprised them, and it looked like maybe they
were setting up an ambush or something there. It didn't seem like they were
there for us. It seemed like maybe they were going to get the next people that
came through or something like that.
What happened then? Did you try and engage in a fight, or did it seem
obvious that this wasn't possible?
It seemed more obvious that we could get away. That was my whole thing, that I
could drive away from them. They were clustered on the other side of the road,
so I turned around, and I could have almost got away from them. And we
probably could have gotten away, if we had made it a little farther up this
road, where it got a little narrower, and we would have probably stopped taking
fire on the flank. The Humvee took so much fire into the engine compartment.
The fire hit something in the engine, because it just completely stopped.
And at that point, was there no option but to give yourself in?
. . . We looked at each other and we knew, because they were all over us.They had shot us up and they still fired after we had stopped, after we'd hit
this little ditch and were stuck. We couldn't move, because the vehicle
wouldn't start. We could see them--they were all on my side. I could see them
just right waving their rifles at me. We knew that there was no chance that we
could get away on foot, or in the vehicle, because the vehicle was done for.
What kind of reception did you get when you came out of the Humvee,
effectively giving yourselves up?
I guess you could say it wasn't a happy reception. They were mostly on my side
and they were just looking at me. I took a deep breath, and I open the door
got out. We had the flak vests on, and the helmets. They ripped the helmet
pretty much from my head, and they grabbed ahold of me. They took a rifle to
my head, knocked me to the floor, and then they just started kicking.
About four or five people were on me, and there was no way I could really keep
them off me, because there were so many people--feet--coming at me. I just
tried to protect myself as much as I could, and try and see what was coming at
me next. Then they stopped kicking. They didn't come with something else, not
a bayonet or another rifle. . . .
What sort of injuries did you sustain in this period?
I had a pretty good gash to my head--they hit me with an AK-47. They kicked me
along the sides. I ended up with broken ribs on each side. I had injuries
that were sustained probably during the interrogation, from our legs being
bound, and I had a really bad contusion.
You're on the ground, and they're kicking you, and they've broken two of
your ribs. How long does this go on until they finally pull you away and take
At the time it seemed like an eternity. It was probably no more than five
minutes. Then somebody who seemed to be in charge came, and got them to pick
us up. . . . actually they bound our hands. They picked us up and walked us
down the road toward the horse stable. We saw the villagers who really didn't
notice before. . . . We started to see more people showing up. So they walked
us down the road. There was Sergeant Stone, myself, and then Gonzales. I
could see them walking with Stone. They had a pistol to his head. The guy who
had come and got us kicked the pistol away as if to make sure they didn't shoot
him. They put us around the back of this stable and started to search us.
Chris Stone talked about being put through almost a mock execution. Was that
something that you endured? If you did, could you describe it for us?
When they put us in the back, they put us right on our knees and our hands were
bound. From anything I've seen, that's the execution position, and so I really
I thought I was done for. Since I was in the middle, I could see Gonzales on
my left and Stone on my right. I was thinking, "This is it. One of us is
going to take it in the head, and me being in the middle, I'll probably see one
of them get it." I looked to my left and I could see Gonzales on the floor, on
his knees, and I looked to my right, and I could see Stone. He seemed like he
was praying, and I was doing the same thing. I was waiting to see what
happened, and it just ended up that they started searching us. Stone actually
got a good kick to the face, from one of them guys who came around the corner.
Seeing what we could have got, I think we got the better end of the deal,
because they kept us alive.
How long were you in that position? You're on the ground in a sort of
execution pose. How long did they keep you like that?
It wasn't too long. I think they put us there and they were just holding us,
because they weren't sure what to do next. That's how it seemed. After
another four or five minutes, they pushed us down, started searching our
person, and took anything off us, like a watch. I had a knife on my belt, and
things in my pockets, like my wallet and things like that. They just took it
What did they do with you after you'd gone through the mock execution?
Where were you taken at that point?
They threw us in a truck, and they took us across the border. There was a tent
set up with medical physicians in there. They actually moved me into like a
little holding place, a little building they had there. Then they moved me
into the tent. The doctors there stitched my head up. Then they looked from
anything else, any injuries we had, because of the blood.
One of them could speak pretty good English. He started telling us that we
were prisoners of war, that we fell under the Geneva Convention, and that they
gave us medical attention, which came under the Geneva Convention,
and that we were being held.
Many of your captors didn't hold the idea that you were being held under the
Geneva Convention. What were they telling you about being perhaps terrorists
and spies--that they were going to put you on trial?
. . . When we were being interrogated, they came back and told me that we're
part of some time of Special Forces team, or something like that. They said we
had equipment that could listen to and intercept anything they had, and that we
had devices that would do all this stuff to, for instance, kick off an attack.
They were saying that we were in their country illegally, and that we could be
tried for an international-type incident, like a border-crossing incident.
Describe these interrogation sessions that you went through once you got
into the prison proper. You were there for the first four or five days. What
kind of techniques did they use during the interrogation sessions? Describe a
typical session for me.
There really wasn't much to it. It seemed like maybe it was new to them, or
maybe they're just that type--how they had to talk to us. They had an
interpreter in the middle. They had two guys. One was military, with a
uniform on, and the other guy was just in civilian clothes. They would take
turns asking questions. They would have to talk through the interpreter, which
was a lady.
They would ask me things, and when she really didn't like what I was saying, or
I wasn't giving them the answer that she was looking for, she would start to
get angry. But the real threats that I got were when they would have the
guards with the rifles behind me, and the military guy would pace back and
forth with his hand on his pistol. He'd be tapping it, and trying to get me to
say what they wanted or to write what they wanted.
What do you think they wanted you to say? Did they ever present a
confession for you to sign?
They wanted me to confess that I was part of a specialized type of unit, that
we were going to kick off a NATO attack. They said we had these devices and
equipment that could do this. And of course we didn't, but they insisted that
we did. This was when the real threats came, and they wanted to make me think
that they're going to shoot me or do whatever, to try and get me to write it.
I would argue back and forth with the lady. . . . I wouldn't want to write
something, she would get upset and insist, and the civilian guy sitting next to
her, who was a bigger guy, would start getting angry. He would stand up, and
start banging on the table and things like that, to try and get me to write
exactly how they wanted. You could say that, with their pressure, they got me
to write exactly what they wanted and sign it.
How did you spend the rest of the time when you were not being
It fluctuated. Mostly, the first couple of days, we were sitting in a chair
where we had our handcuffs behind us. We had hoods on our head. After about
two days, they put us on the floor, which wasn't any better. They laid us on
one side of our body and wouldn't let us move. Basically, we were almost in a
sitting position, with our legs bent. But we were laying on our side on the
floor. It just killed your shoulder, and especially your legs. You couldn't
move. We started to get stiff and you'd want to move your hands, since they're
bound behind you.
How many hours at a time were you having endure this?
It varied, depending on when they were going to interrogate us. I'd say the
longest was a day and a half. It was a while between some interrogations. I
was interrogated maybe four times in the seven days. We were left like that,
except when we would eat, or they would happen to take us to the rest room.
How often were they taking you to the rest room?
It was mostly when they felt like it. They gave us water when we ate, so
obviously you had to use the rest room after a while. When I couldn't stand it
no more, I'd tell the guard, and if he decided to take me, he'd take me. If
not, I just had to lay there and ask later on, or hope that they'd just do it
Was your head ever covered in the hood?
Yes, that's how they kept us. They kept us hooded except when we ate or when
they interrogated us.
What was it like going through that experience? How did you manage to get
To tell you the truth, I really don't know. I tried to keep busy, keep my head
busy, with data. You sit there and all your senses are basically taken away
from you right there with the hood. It's dark in the room anyway, so I don't
know day or night. After a while, being dehydrated, having to use the rest
room so bad and just laying on this floor, and having been like that for four
or five days, I felt like I was going crazy. I was seeing images. I was
thinking that people were there from our unit to rescue us, and things like
that. One time, right before they moved us to the prison, on about our sixth
or seventh day, I actually called out to one guy. I really thought he was
there with the Humvee. The guard probably thought I was nuts or something, and
he didn't even bother with me.
When you were transferred after about seven days to the main prison, how
were conditions? How did conditions change for you?
You could say it got better. From being held on a floor with the hood and
handcuffed for six to seven days, we could actually walk around. The cell
wasn't very big. . . about four by four feet wide, and about 12 feet long.
There was a bed and a little table and sort of a sink bathroom in the corner.
That was enough room where I could at least walk, I could do something. I had
a bed, I wasn't tied up, and I could use the rest room, and get water when I
Did you have any contact at all with Chris or Steven during this period?
No. I could hear them once in a while. I could tell they were there, at least
around the area I was in. But I never did see them, and I really didn't hear
anything they said. I could just hear that they were there.
Tell me about that time when you were paraded in front of the television
cameras. That was a pretty awful time. What was going on at that point?
That was around the night when we were captured. We were moved to that place.
Another doctor there looked at us again. They asked me a lot of questions.
The camera was there. He was asking me some things, trying to get me to say a
lot of the propaganda stuff again. I played around and I didn't say what they
wanted. So then they moved us. They moved me from where I was, and they
brought in the other two. They put us against the wall, moved out of the way
and they filmed us. The guy was saying, "We're going to show this. . . . Your
family's going to see you. They're going to see that we have you, that you're
But, in fact, the image was hardly reassuring. You looked to be in pretty
After seeing that, at least they could tell that we're alive. But everyone
seeing the pictures could tell that they weren't too nice or friendly to us
when they actually captured us.
Once you got into the prison, were you aware of the efforts that were
underway from the Cypriot and US governments to get your release? Were you
aware of the diplomatic efforts?
We were unaware of everything. I could hear planes flying across, and things
blowing up. The guards would come in and tell me things.
What sort of things did they tell you?
They had a high running count of our airplanes that were getting shot down.
According to them, they were shooting down something every night. They'd say
that F-16s were shot down, and other things that weren't even in country. . . .
I didn't believe it.
Did they also suggest to you that your own country had forgotten you, or
were making no efforts to secure your release?
They did that actually during the interrogation. They really didn't do that
when I was in the prison. But they would mention every day that the government
hasn't asked for us, and that they've not heard anything acknowledging that
we're captured. One time, they actually told me that my mother had called,
asking about me, which I knew wasn't true. They were saying that she wanted to
know why the government hadn't called her, or said anything about us.
Tell me about the meeting about with Reverend Jackson. Going in that day,
did you have any idea who you would be meeting?
No, I actually had no clue. I was thinking maybe we were meeting with the Red
Cross again or something. I was actually the last one on that very first day
when we met him. The congressman said, "I have a friend I'd like you to meet,
my friend, the Reverend Jesse Jackson." I turned around, and there's Jesse
Jackson. He's a very recognizable man, a lot bigger than I expected, or I ever
thought. But he was there, and he needed no introduction. I knew who the guy
What did he tell you he was there to do? Was it immediately obvious that he
was there to try and secure your release?
It wasn't to me. It seemed like maybe it was a goodwill gesture to us, like
maybe they let him come as a religious figure. He told us he brought messages
from our families. He had Bibles for us. He had some candy and things like
that, which he said we would get. He said we could talk to the CNN cameramen,
and send messages that way to our family, just to tell them that we're okay.
We prayed with them, and then they moved us back to the cell.
At what point did it become obvious to you that his mission was actually,
possibly, going to secure your release?
It really wasn't until the next day. When I was leaving, when they were
putting me back, Reverend Jackson said something, just a hint, saying he was
trying to do something. He said, "Tomorrow, that bus is leaving and there's
space on it for you guys, because I want you out sightseeing," or something
like that. I took it as something to make me feel better. . . . They
moved me back. Maybe, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking that maybe he's
trying to get us out. But I didn't really didn't know what to expect.
How did you finally learn that you were going to be released?
Later that night, just before they turned off the lights for bedtime, the
higher-ranking guy from these prison guards, who's in charge, came in. He was
wearing civilian clothes, and was gesturing to me to change my clothes. We
would wear this Serbian uniforms, and he brought out American battle dress
uniforms. He was making a little hand gesture and he said, "Home." It's not
clicking with me. I can't believe that after 30 days, they were going to just
release us. I kind of hesitated. I looked in the door, and these other guards
were waving to me, like saying, "Later." That's when I started wanting to
As you were leaving, you had a two-hour drive to get you out of Yugoslavia
and back to safety. Do you remember any thoughts that were going through your
mind as you were going through the Yugoslav Serbian countryside?
I didn't do much thinking, to tell you the truth. We did a lot of talking.
It's one of those things when you're kept alone. You want to talk to someone,
so when you finally have people you can talk to, you talk as much as you can.
We were talking amongst each other, really. We'd ask, "Well, did this happen
to you?" and things like that.
Did the fact of freedom finally sink in when you finally got back to
Yes, I think so. After we got off the plane in Germany, we were in an area
that I recognized. We got off, and there was a big crowd of people there,
people who lived on the base and who'd come to greet us. As we were moving to
the helicopter, three of our guys who were in our platoon were there as our
buddies, to hang out with us, make sure things went okay with us, and if we
needed anything. I saw the sergeant who's my gunner on the Bradley, and he
drove the Humvee. To see him, and to see the other guys there . . . I really
felt that I can let it all out, that I was actually free, it was behind me--and
that everything was fine.
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