Mass. Son Reborn on Fourth of July

The statement was released on the Fourth of July, the same day Stephen first spoke to his brother.

"We can't think of a better time to thank our fellow citizens for never giving up on us, for never forgetting us, for always believing that we would, one day, return home to the country we love," the statement continued.

Colombia-born Betancourt, who's a French ex-patriot, has spoken the most publicly about the conditions under the Colombian rebels and described the conditions as unfit for even a plant.

But Stephen said his first priority will be giving his brother whatever space he needs to begin the process of re-entering the civilized world, free from the chains that bound him to his life as a hostage.

Before his brother's plane crash, Randy came home from Bogota to visit their ailing father at a hospital on Cape Cod. At their father's bedside, the brothers talked about Randy's adventurous career as a pilot, which had led him to a job flying over Colombia for a subsidiary of military contractor Northrop Grumman.

Stephen said he questioned his brother's safety, and Randy acknowledged the job's dangers. But Randy saw a silver lining — if he ever did go down, he told his older brother, he would die instantly.

Five years of captivity and one dramatic rescue effort later, it's clear that Randy may have been wrong about that, a miscalculation to be thankful for.

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