By Robert Lake
Thomas Hamill, a trucker from Mississippi who went to Iraq to haul freight for KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, became famous when he was shot and kidnapped by insurgents, spending 24 days in captivity before escaping.
I had the opportunity, along with more than 400 attendees at Randall Publishing’s Spring Trucking Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on May 25, to hear Hamill tell his story. (Randall Publishing is the parent company of Truckers News, Overdrive and CCJ.)
It’s no surprise to find a hero among the ranks of truck drivers. Every day on every road in America, a trucker performs a service for his fellow man, be it delivering a load on time, assisting a motorist or keeping an eye out for suspicious activities as an important role in the war against terrorism.
In his book, Escape in Iraq: The Thomas Hamill Story, he describes his fears and retells the prayers he said throughout his captivity. “What are the chances a simple farmer from Mississippi, who didn’t even finish high school, much less go to college, would be caught up in the middle of all of his. God must have planned for this for a long time,” Hamill says in his book.
The attack on Hamill’s convoy happened in western Baghdad. As soon as the attack began, fuel started to leak from tankers. Tractor-trailers exploded and overturned, and Hamill’s rig finally gave out. He and his co-driver made a dash to the closest Humvee, but Hamill didn’t make it. Shot in the shoulder, bleeding profusely from the wound, he was quickly seized and turned over to the insurgents. For several weeks, he was close to being rescued, but each time, the chance slipped away. Once, he even escaped from his place of captivity but couldn’t flag down anyone to help.
They moved him again, and he was certain the end was near.
“God, it is all in your hands,” he prayed. “You pick the time and place, I will know when that time is. You open the door, I will be there.”
May 2 turned out to be the time and place. He heard the sound of diesel engines and took a leap of faith. He walked out the door and was able to flag down some passing soldiers. Later, he returned to his hometown of Macon, Miss., and was hailed as a hero.
He told fleet owners at the symposium, “If you have drivers working over there or thinking about working over there, give them your blessing. I hope you’ll open your arms and give them a job back when they come home. It’s a tough time over there for those drivers.”
Join me in congratulating Hamill, all of our American military heroes and all of the ordinary heroes traveling along American highways.