California Couple Welcomed Home After Ordeal in Iraq
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An American couple rounded up by Iraqi troops in Kuwait and held as human shields at strategic sites returned home Tuesday to a joyful welcome from family and friends.
Don Swanke, 66, and his wife, Brenda, 43, said they were held with hundreds of other Westerners in Iraq to deter attack by U.S.-led forces in the Persian Gulf since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.
The couple, from Westlake Village outside Los Angeles, were among more than 170 Western hostages released Friday after talks between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.
″I feel great, thank you,″ Swanke said as he hurried through the airport. Mrs. Swanke, 43, who carried three red roses, said they were relieved to be home but fearful for the well-being of other hostages in Iraq.
″Let’s get the hostages out,″ she said. ″Let’s make that our No. 1 priority.″
″We want whatever has to be done to get them out,″ echoed Swanke, a construction project manager.
The Swankes underwent two days of physical examinations at a hospital in Germany and were discharged with a clean bill of health despite a combined loss of 55 pounds.
The Swankes said they were fed mostly rice during their captivity, but were generally treated well.
″I took the position that you guys are the enemies and we’re the prisoners and we’ll do what you say,″ Swanke said. ″There was no use getting hardnosed with them and they were very respectful of that.″
After the invasion, Swanke said they were able to move around Kuwait City until Aug. 18 when Iraq ordered Americans to report to a hotel. They remained in their apartment until Sept. 5, when Iraqi soldiers kicked down the door.
″About 15 soldiers came in with AK-47s, quite polite, but rather threatening,″ he said. ″They took our passports and told us to throw some things in a bag and follow them.″
After two nights at a hotel, they were taken by bus to Baghdad with 14 or 15 Americans and several Britons.
After about a week, the Swankes were taken to a strategic site in Mosul, about 240 miles north of Baghdad. Later, they were moved to what appeared to be a missile storage and assembly base, Swanke said.
Swanke then became ill and they were eventually moved to another site south of Baghdad, where Swanke spent four days in a hospital.