Updated: 05-04-2004 08:30:21 PM

Firefighters Await Hamill's Return

Firehouse.Com News

Firefighters in Noxubee County, Mississippi are ecstatic about the news of Thomas Hamill's safe escape from his Iraqi captors.

It was an emotional roller coaster ride for Hamill's fellow firefighters as they waited three weeks to learn his fate. "After his body didn't show up for the first few days, our hope was real high," said Noxubee County Fire Services Coordinator Jacob Megehee.

Hamill, 43, was working as a truck driver in Iraq for Halliburton subsidiary KBR when his convoy was attacked and he was taken hostage April 9. He escaped on Sunday.

Every night while Hamill was missing, members of his community met at 7 p.m. at the local courthouse for a prayer meeting, Megehee said, and their prayers were answered. "It's the power of positive thinking. You pray and hope something good will happen, and it does," he said.

As soon as they got the news of Hamill's safe escape, Noxubee County fire officials broadcast an announcement over the fire radio. Local officials are now planning a welcome home reception and parade, although they are still waiting to hear his return date.

Hamill, who drove trucks at night and operated a dairy farm during the day, also made time to volunteer for the two fire departments nearest to his home; the Cedar Creek VFD and the Mashulaville VFD, two of the nine fire departments organized under the Noxubee County Fire Association.

Megehee described Hamill as very agreeable and hard working, and said that he was awarded Firefighter of the Year for 2003 in Cedar Creek because of his energy, aggressiveness and desire to get things done.

When Hamill visited home in February during his wife's open heart surgery, he said that he enjoyed the work he was doing in Iraq and had gained weight from eating so well, Megehee said. He thinks Hamill will still consider the experience worthwhile, despite his ordeal, because he feels that he was contributing to a worthwhile effort.

Noxubee County has 12,500 residents and is 36 miles long by 36 miles wide. The county firefighters are going through some good times, because in addition to Hamill's safe return, they are still thrilled about six of their fire departments receiving FIRE Act grants in 2003 and one in 2002.