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From the Stars and Stripes archives

'I breathed a big sigh of relief ...'

By BRAD DURFEE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 22, 1981

Reaction was strong and emotional as service members and their families stationed in Europe responded to the news of the hostages' release and arrival in Germany.

"I feel a great deal of relief. I hope we can forgive and forget this incident and, with the inauguration of a new president, I hope we can move ahead to a more peaceful world," Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Valint of Yonkers, N.Y., said at Aviano, Italy.

Sgt. Tommy Bester of the 7206 Safety Office at Hellenikon, Greece, said he was "very happy." The airman from Bessemer, Ala., said: "It's something that has been bothering me a long time. I'm glad it's over."

A spokesman for the Canadian Forces, Europe, in Lahr, Germany, said that the reaction among the Canadian troops "was of joy and relief that the thing was over." Maj. Al Ritter, from Toronto, added, "Although we had no direct involvement, we don't like to see those things happen to our friends — and the Americans are our friends."

M.Sgt. George Tatum, assigned to the cost and management branch of the Consular Division at Soesterberg AB, Camp New Amsterdam, Holland, thought the release was "terrific." Tatum, from Jacksonville, Fla., said, "I breathed a big sigh of relief when they got to Wiesbaden — especially after all the letdowns they've had." He said his 6-year-old daughter, Teri, had something to say during Tuesday's confusion as to when the hostages would be released: "Daddy, if everyone had tied a yellow ribbon around a tree, the hostages would now be free."

Sgt. Steven Hoyt, 110th MP Co in Stuttgart-Moehringen, Germany, said he thinks it's good that the captives were free now, but thinks the United States should have gone in when they were taken. Hoyt, from Red Bluff, Calif., said of policy toward Iran, "I think we should continue economic sanctions and forget about friendship with them."

Canadian Capt. Dave Eagles said at Lahr: "Fantastic. I think I'm as happy as any American. Pity you had to give so much to get them out, though." Eagles, of Kingston, Ontario, said, "Your government showed great restraint, after having your face slapped, in not taking offensive action against the Iranians — which I'm sure the Russians would have done, in a similar case."

Sgt. Maj. William J. Daniels, of the V Corps chaplain's office in Frankfurt, said: "We all feel great. If I was in charge, I'd give everybody the day off so they could go out and celebrate," The native of Shamokin, Pa., added: "My family and I stayed up all night watching the events. When the first plane touched down, at about 10 minutes to 7, we popped the cork on a bottle of champagne to celebrate."

Daniels said many of his co-workers were sleepy-eyed, but smiling, when he got to work Wednesday morning. He said there's a general feeling of excitement and relief that the 14-month ordeal is finally over.

Airman Karen Cronister, assigned to the 32nd Tac Fighter Sq, Soesterberg AB, said: "It's about time. We've been waiting for over a year." Cronister of Plymouth. Ind., said she was disappointed that the hostages were only getting pizza when they came back. (An earlier news release said a Chicago radio station was sending pizzas to the hostages in Germany.) "I just wish them the best of luck in adjusting to the situation." Cronister said.

Yeoman 2.C. Russell Skinner, from Clearwater. Fla., said, from his office at Navy headquarters in London, "I listened to the radio all day Monday and when I went home Tuesday night. The hostage release is one of the best things that has happened in a long time. I don't know how to say how I feel about it, except it's fantastic."

When asked who should meet the released hostages. Skinner said: "I feel Carter should be the one to be there. Even though Reagan is now president, Carter did the legwork."

S.Sgt. Richard Fahey, assigned to the European Defense Analysis Center in Stuttgart-Vaihingcn, Germany, said: "I think it's wonderful. I'm a night worker, and I listened to the radio all night." Fahey of College Park, Md., said: "I think we waited too long to get them back and didn't do enough to gain their release. It made me mad how Iran made a political show out of the whole affair, at the end."

In Goeppingen, Germany, Spec. 4 Diane Bishop, from Bremerton, Wash., said, "It's a good thing they're finally released but it took too long." Bishop, assigned to the 1st Inf Div (Forward), added: "Iran should never have been allowed to get into a bargaining position. I think Carter was a bit too docile. I believe Reagan's rhetoric might have scared them."

Pfc. Leonora Jackson, a native of Guam, assigned to the 1st Signal Bn, Kaiserslautern, Germany, said a sudden thrill ran through her when she heard the news. "I was so happy I had goose bumps. Everybody cared for the hostages, and I think it showed the last couple of days."

Maureen Jamison, a civilian employee with the Canadian Forces in Lahr, said she was, "absolutely thrilled." Jamison of Calgary, Alberta, said: "They were gone too long — 444 days. I've been listening to all the news broadcasts for the past 48 hours. Now, I'm thrilled."

An Army doctor, assigned to the 769th Med Det in Augsburg, said; "I feel great that they have been released and that the problem was solved without resorting to military action — I mean, that it wasn't needed."

Maj. Miguel Palou, from Juncos, Puerto Rico, went on to say that he thought that they had been held too long. "The U.S. shouldn't have tolerated their capture. They should have been more aggressive. It should have been taken care of many months ago."

T.Sgt. Anthony Halash, with the 513th Supply Sq at RAF Mildenhall, England, was happy to know the former hostages were finally in Germany. "I hope they (Iranians) don't get all that money. I don't feel they should get anything after holding our people."

Halash, from Wyandotte, Mich., was concerned that the military "looks bad. We've lost stature because of that hostage situation. We should have done something earlier."

A 17-year-old student at Patch American High School in Stuttgart-Vaihingen said he thinks the hostage release is great but they were held too long. Dave Hepner of Hampton, Va., said: "We should have gone into Iran as soon as they were captured and brought them out. I think Carter did his best. He sent the rescue team in — but it didn't work out."

Spec. 5 Brenda German, 29th Area Support Group, Kaiserslautern, Germany, watched TV all night Tuesday. "It's great — just beautiful. My first reaction when I heard about the hostage release was a big relief," said the Allentown, Pa., native. "I'm glad it's over with."

Airman 1.C. Eugene Ellerbe, who is on temporary duty at RAF Mildenhall from Little Rock AFB, near Jacksonville, Ark., also commented on the hostage release. A Detroit native, Ellerbe said, "It's a good thing they were released. We'd have gone to war — without a doubt."

A private first class assigned to VII Corps in Stuttgart, Germany, said, "We should have gone in when the hostages were taken." Otis Bouie of Fort Pierce, Fla., also said, "I hope credit for freeing the hostages goes to Carter because he did all he could to get the hostages back."

S.Sgt. Anthony Allen is assigned to the 2nd Support Comd at Nellingen, Germany. The Eastern Shores, Va., sergeant said this about the hostage release: "A lot of people say we should have gone in and taken them. But, it took 14 months of negotiations — and it could have taken just a second for the hostages to die."

At Camp New Amsterdam, S.M.Sgt. Paul Cook, assigned to DO 3, 2134 Comm Sq, called the release "one of the greatest things that could happen to start the new year off with." Cook of Freeport, Fla.. said: "This is especially true with the new president coming in. He can now tackle the other problems the nation is faced with,"

Spec. 5 Thomas P. Hansen, with VII Corps in Stuttgart, said, "We should have gotten them out sooner." Hansen, from Hillsboro, Oregon, added: "Taking an embassy is an act of war. We shouldn't have paid them anything."

Spec. 4 Nicholas Farruggia, a member of the 90th Personnel and Administration Bn in Kaiserslautern, said he "felt good inside when lie heard of the release of the hostages. I got up early to listen to the radio reports. I could almost feel the relief that they felt.

Farruggia of Wichita Falls, Texas, added that their release instilled a new national pride in the American people. "The flags tattooed on every American's heart probably rose last (Tuesday) night," he said.

A specialist 4 at Stuttgart said he was pleased that the hostages were released but "everyone made too much of a big deal over it." The specialist, from Portsmouth, Va., who did not wish to be named, said that Carter shouldn't have given the money to the Iranians. "The U.S. is a strong country — too strong to give in to a country like Iran," he said.

"I think it's marvelous," said Maj. Ronald Tatus of the 32nd Tac Fighter Sq at Camp New Amsterdam. "We had an alert and came in early, and, when I saw their arrival at Wiesbaden, I almost shed a tear or two."

Tatus, from Detroit, said he thought the yellow ribbons were a nice touch and was happy that the wearing "swept the nation.'
 

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