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Some Iranian Hostages Still Feel Effects Of Captivity

January 20, 1986

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Victor Tomseth doesn’t feel comfortable in a room unless he has a view of the outside. Robert Blucker won’t register to vote because he fears he might be confined to a small room for jury duty.

Five years after their release, some of the Americans held hostage in Iran still feel the effects of their captivity.

″No doubt there’s been some psychic damage,″ Blucker, a former embassy economics officer who is retired from the foreign service, said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.

Ex-hostages said most of the emotional problems came soon after they were released and were resolved through therapy or, in several cases, talking about their experiences in lectures.

Of the 52 Americans who were imprisoned for all 444 days, 51 are still alive. One, William Keough, 55, died of Lou Gehrig’s disease Nov. 11. The Bee located all but three of the 51 and interviewed 35 of them. The interviews were published Sunday.

It was on Jan. 20, 1981, five years ago Monday, that the 52 hostages were released by Iran after 444 days in captivity in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

″One thing a lot of us learned is that we don’t know very much about how people react to stress,″ said John Limbert, who is now the No. 2 official at the American Embassy in the African nation of Djibouti.

″When we got (released), they showed us a film about how people react to stress, and there were psychologists predicting all kinds of ways we would react,″ Limbert said in an interview. ″It scared the hell out of our families. They thought we were going to be zombies. And all that proves is the experts don’t know.″

″I learned a great deal about myself,″ William Royer Jr., a U.S. Information Agency employee, said of the experience. ″I gained a lot of confidence and reassurance about meeting the vicissitudes of life. Perhaps because of that, I’m ... far more appreciative of the simple things, the small beauties in life.″

Several former hostages said they are still bitter at the U.S. government’s reaction to the crisis.

″There were times I wished they would have nuked Tehran because we were ready to die,″ says Phillip Ward, now a communications instructor for the State Department. But he adds: ″Cooler heads prevailed.″

But Michael Howland, now an administrator at the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, West Germany, said, ″The Tehran hostage crisis was well-managed. We had only limited options available to us. I’m grateful that it was done the way it was done.″

For some, there is still anger at their captors.

″I can’t think of any Iranian that knows anything about a human being,″ said Donald Hohman, an Army physician’s assistant based in West Germany who said he was beaten by his Iranian captors.

But Limbert said, ″I don’t feel any bitterness toward (Iranians). I feel only sadness for what they are going through.″

Billy Gallegos, a former Marine and now a student at a Denver college, said that every time Americans abroad are assaulted or killed these days, he remembers his ordeal.

″I tell myself, ’God, I know what those people are going through,‴ he told the Rocky Mountain News.

The Iranian incident ″opened the door to a new type of terrorism that’s going on now,″ said Gallegos, 27.

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