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Sunday, April 13

N.J. family celebrates rescue of POW son

By Jason Laughlin | (Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier-Post

PENNSAUKEN, N.J. - James Riley was among seven captured U.S. soldiers found alive and well Sunday by Marines near Iraq President Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

Riley's parents, Jane and Athol Riley, of Pennsauken, N.J., received the news of his rescue just after returning home from Palm Sunday services.

"I'm happy but I still can't believe it," Jane Riley said at an impromptu news conference outside the family home.

"When I touch him I'll know it's real," she said.

Riley was among members of the 507th Maintenance Company taken prisoner on March 23 when their unit was ambushed.

The Rileys' joy was tempered with concern for others.

"It's got to be tinged with a certain amount of regret with all the others who aren't coming home in one piece," Athol Riley said. He was referring to the death of Army Staff Sgt. Terry Hemingway, formerly of Willingboro, N.J. Hemingway's family learned Friday night he was killed when a car exploded beside the armored vehicle he was in.

Jane and Athol Riley said they were told that their son was doing well and had not suffered any gunshot wounds. They said they were not told the circumstances of his rescue.

The Rileys said they expected to talk to their son by phone but didn't know when that would happen.

Asked if he was surprised his son was alive and well, Athol Riley said, "Generally people have a good side - and that includes the Iraqis."

The Rileys first heard about the rescue of missing servicemen and women on the radio when they got up Sunday, but they did not get official confirmation until 9:30 a.m. when Maj. Nathan Banks, the family's casualty assistance officer, showed up at their front door.

"Doing this job is kind of tough and rough but the good thing about it is when there is a happy ending," Banks said.

The Rileys said they were not worried when they saw Banks approaching their front door by himself.

"As long as he only comes by himself it is not bad news," Athol said.

After Banks got out of his car at the Riley home, he told reporters: "It's good news."