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Three American Servicemen Held Hostage in Colombia
September 3, 2007

Last Thursday, I was honored to be the inaugural speaker at the U.S. Southern Command Author Series in Miami. I was treated incredibly graciously by Admiral James Stavridis and his staff, and came away both better informed about circumstances in the Central and South American subcontinent, and highly impressed with the military men and women serving the United States in the region.

I will have a great deal to say in coming weeks concerning the specifics of that visit, but perhaps the most moving token of appreciation I came away with was a simple yellow wristband that bears the inscription:

Keith, Marc, Tom
13 Feb 2003

This commemorates three American servicemen—Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves, and Thomas Howes—who were taken hostage by guerillas of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) on February 13, 2003, when the Cessna aircraft in which they were traveling (they were mapping coca fields for eradication) developed catastrophic engine trouble and was forced to land deep in FARC-controlled territory. The pilot of the plane, Thomas Janis—a recipient of the Bronze Star for valor in Vietnam—and a Colombian intelligence officer named Luis Alcides Cruz were killed by guerilla forces and their bodies left by the plane. Janis was able, before being killed, to destroy highly sensitive electronic equipment aboard the aircraft.

The average length of time that hostages are held by FARC is seven years. I hope, if or when these three men are finally released, that they are able to discern in the eyes of their comrades the profound commitment to their release and personal concern I saw as I was handed this wristband—which I have not removed since it was given to me by Maj. Barbara Fick.

* * * * *

Due to a heavy work schedule on my forthcoming book, I will not be writing my usual lengthy postings for the Weekly commentary in the coming six months. If you feel the need for something more substantial, please dig into any of my previous offerings, the link for which is immediately below.

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