Born 44 years ago in the small town of Macon, Miss., Thomas Hamill calls himself a "walking miracle." This following 23 days of terror, all at the mercy of Iraqi militants.
A lifelong dairy farmer, Hamill was in Iraq trying to help make ends meet. For Hamill, 2003 was a very difficult year business-wise. Set to receive $75,000 for his yearlong work in Iraq, he thought that was the answer and prior to going, he sold all of his cattle.
Not only that, but he virtually went one month without any pay during his training. About two days after seriously contemplating not going to Iraq at all, Hamill was called to duty.
"I'd do it all over again for the experience," says Hamill. "I wouldn't change anything. It's changed my whole life."
The big change came on that infamous day in April about six months after his initial arrival in Iraq. This day was roughly a month after Hamill had returned to Iraq from the states. He had been back home because his wife had to have emergency surgery.
"I had my R&R scheduled to come back and I would have been in the states on April 9, but because of her heart surgery I had to come back early and there were a lot of things that I put together," says Hamill. "I feel like I had to be there. There was a reason I was there."
Kidnapped during a convoy, Hamill says he and at least six others were taken hostage. He says only one is still listed as missing and several of the others were killed.
Shot during the abduction, the only treatment Hamill had during his captivity was iodine or peroxide, supplied by his kidnappers and applied by either them or him.
"They put me in this building and they would come in and put the food down. They didn't want to talk to me and if I'd look up at them, they'd point their guns at me or make the slashing of the throat signal with their finger," he said.
Constantly moved from place to place in the desert, Hamill says he was given three meals a day and for the most part was treated okay. That is, until his kidnappers heard about allegations of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody being mistreated.
"After that they came in at night, they shackled my hands with some type of old ancient shackle and wrapped dog chains around my legs, and it usually cut off circulation to my hands and feet by morning, but you know, I knew I could survive. God was helping me," says Hamill."
It was ultimately this help which Hamill says led to his escape. In Part 2, Hamill shares what he calls common misconceptions about Iraqis. Plus, we'll tell you what advice he has for those with loved ones now serving in Iraq.