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Sunday, April 13

Ecstatic family awaits return of freed POW

By David Peregrino | El Paso Times

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. - If anyone says it is impossible to dance while sitting down, Anecita Hudson proved them wrong Sunday morning.

Seated on the couch in her Alamogordo home, she saw on television the first photo of her son broadcast after his release by Iraqi troops.

Waving animatedly at Army Spc. Joseph Hudson's smiling face, Anecita Hudson stamped her feet on the floor with delight.

``There's Joseph in the middle, and he's laughing! Oh, my goodness! Look at my Joseph!'' she cried.

The photo showed a beaming Joseph Hudson running across an airfield, flanked by fellow Fort Bliss 507th Maintenance Company members Spc. Edgar Hernandez of Alton, Texas, and Pfc. Patrick Miller of Park City, Kan.

The three were among seven prisoners of war released Sunday by Iraqi forces.

Also enjoying freedom for the first time since the March 23 ambush of their convoy in southern Iraq were 507th members Spc. Shoshana Johnson of El Paso and Sgt. James Riley of Pennsauken, N.J.

The other rescued POWs were Chief Warrant Officer David Williams of Orlando, Fla., and Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Young of Lithia Springs, Ga., whose Apache helicopter went down in central Iraq on March 24. They're assigned to a unit at Fort Hood, Texas.

``I'm so glad that my baby is home,'' Anecita Hudson said. She said military officials hadn't told her yet when Joseph, 23, would return to Alamogordo, but she expects to see him very soon.

She will turn 52 on Wednesday.

``This is a really good birthday present for me,'' she said.

Joseph's brother, Anthony Hudson, turned 19 last Tuesday.

``This is the best birthday wish,'' Anthony Hudson said, flashing an ear-to-ear smile while standing outside his mother's home. He spent the morning with an indelible grin, bounding about his mother's home and front lawn with manic happiness.

``I hope (the other POWs' families) are feeling the same way I am. Oh, my God,'' he said. Directly across the street at North Elementary School, yellow plastic drinking cups pressed into a chain-link fence spelled in large letters: We're Praying for Joseph.

``I'm going to church right now,'' Anthony Hudson said, jumping into his black sports car and driving off to deliver a prayer of thanks at his neighborhood church.

Anecita Hudson said she learned of the POWs' release around 5:30 a.m., when her sister Esther Duke called her from Okinawa, Japan, and told her to watch the breaking news on CNN.

Hudson said she told her sister, ``I know one of them is Joseph.

``I crossed my toes, I crossed my fingers. I hoped one of them was my son,'' she recalled.

Around 8:30 a.m., Sgt. First Class Ramon Montano of the New Mexico Army National Guard arrived to tell the Hudson family that Joseph was one of the freed POWs. ``When he came here, I knew he had good news for me,'' Hudson said.

Soon after, family friends and a swarm of television and newspaper reporters began arriving at Hudson's home.

At Joseph Hudson's Fort Bliss home (coincidentally located on Hero Avenue), where his wife Natalie has been staying with their 5-year-old daughter, a man told reporters that Natalie wasn't ready to speak to the press.

Her mother, Phyllis Hudman, who has been the family's spokeswoman in recent weeks, thanked the community for its support.

``We are ecstatic. And we believe that we serve an awesome God,'' said Hudman, who lives in Alamogordo.

Joseph Hudson's father, Air Force retiree David Hudson, is deceased, the family said.

The Hudson family and friends were cheered by the smile Joseph Hudson flashed on television.

Anecita Hudson's companion, Charles Johnson, said Joseph Hudson ``ain't changed a bit. He's got that big ol' smile on his face.''

When she sees her son in person again, ``I'm going to ask him if he's been eating,'' said Anecita Hudson. She said the family will have a party after he arrives, featuring her son's favorite meal: chicken adobo and rice.