Some Iranian Hostages Still Feel Effects Of CaptivityAP , Associated Press
Jan. 20, 1986 8:05 AM ET
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Since their return to the United States, they have marked the normal milestones of life - marriage, parenthood, divorce and career changes.
After five years, some of the Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days still bear the scars of their captivity. Victor Tomseth is uncomfortable if he's in a room without a view of the outside; Robert Blucker won't register to vote because of fear that he might be confined to a small room for jury duty.
''No doubt there's been some psychic damage,'' says Blucker, a former embassy economics officer who is retired from the foreign service.
But most of the emotional problems, if any, came soon after the hostages were released and were resolved through therapy or, in several cases, talking about their experiences in speeches and lectures, some of the ex-hostages say.
''One thing a lot of us learned is that we don't know very much about how people react to stress,'' said John Limbert, who was political officer at the embassy in Iran and is now the No. 2 official at the American embassy in the African nation of Djibouti.
''When we got (released) they showed us a film about how people react to stress, and there were psychologists predicting all kinds of ways we would react,'' Limbert said. ''It scared ... our families. They thought we were going to be zombies. And all that proves is the experts don't know.''
Of the 52 Americans who were imprisoned for all 444 days, 51 are still alive, the Sacramento Bee said Sunday. One, William Keough, 55, died of Lou Gehrig's disease last Nov. 11.
The Bee located all but three of the 51 who were released Jan. 20, 1981, and interviewed 35 of them for several articles published Sunday.
The experience changed them, some former hostages say.
''My wife is fond of saying that one Mike Kennedy went to Iran and another came back. She prefers the one that came back,'' says retired foreign service officer Moorehead Kennedy. ''We both grew.''
Said William Royer Jr., a U.S. Information Agency employee, ''I learned a great deal about myself. I gained a lot of confidence and reassurance about meeting the vicissitudes of life. Perhaps because of that, I'm a little more complacent, far more appreciative of the simple things, the small beauties in life.''
Several of the hostages are still bitter that the United States did not make an early effort to rescue them or punish their captors.
''We wished something would have happened right away. We thought about it every day,'' said Rodney Sickmann, a former Marine sergeant who is now a draft beer technician for a brewery in St. Louis.
''There were times I wished they would have nuked Tehran because we were ready to die,'' said Phillip Ward, now a communications instructor for the State Department. But, he said, ''Cooler heads prevailed.''
Michael Howland, an administrator at the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, West Germany, said, ''The Tehran hostage crisis was well-managed. We had only limited options available to us. I'm grateful that it was done the way it was done. We're all still alive.''
Robert Ode, the oldest ex-hostage at age 70, says he hopes Americans have ''learned something'' from the Iran experience.
''The thing we should be doing, whether it's in a country where there's terrorism or not, is to try and understand the people,'' said Ode, who is retired in Sun City West, Ariz. ''Not everyone thinks or acts like Americans.''