MIDLAND, Texas (AP) _ John Henry Cole is looking forward to holding his grandson for the first time, thanks to the efforts of his wife and the relatives of other hostages who came to Iraq to plead for his release.

''If the media hadn't been there working and the women and the wives hadn't been there working, we would have still been there,'' Cole said Tuesday.

Cole, 50, was in Kuwait when Iraq invaded Aug. 2. He remained in hiding, but was captured and held as a ''human shield'' in September at an oil refinery south of Baghdad.

His wife, Donnita, was among a group of 17 people who had traveled to Baghdad with other family members before Saddam Hussein's decision to release all hostages.

The Coles returned Tuesday to a red-carpet welcome from the Odessa Chamber of Commerce at Midland International Airport.

''I told you I'd bring him home,'' Mrs. Cole told cheering family, friends and city officials.

Cole joked that Saddam suddenly released all hostages because, ''he was afraid of facing the American women who came to get their husbands.''

Mrs. Cole said her group had difficulty getting through immigration in Baghdad ''because they didn't know what to do with a bunch of women and two men.''

''They had all these women who were starting to breathe fire and look mean and nasty and tough. The ones that weren't from Texas, we made honorary Texans out of them,'' Mrs. Cole said.

Cole, who had worked for Houston-based OGE Drilling Inc., had not yet seen his 4-month-old grandson, John Kiefer Cole. The boy's father, John Edward Cole, 23, is with the Special Forces in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield.

Cole said he supports President Bush's actions in the Middle East.

''I back the president right now,'' Cole said. ''I voted for the man. I can't turn down now.''

Since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, the U.S. government has evacuated 2,520 American citizens and their family members on 13 chartered flights.

The final American chartered flight is scheduled to leave early Thursday, with about 15 Americans from Iraq on board, including the last remaining person who was a ''human shield.''

After they pop open a bottle of champagne, the Coles planned to take it easy.

''I got my husband home and now I can relax,'' Mrs. Cole said. ''Now, the old adrenalin can kind of slow down.''