Reluctant Hero Applauded in Vermont

Freed hostage to Vermont crowd: "I am touched."

April 25, 2009, 4:44 PM

April 25, 2009 — -- No ticker tape. No procession. No marching band. Just a simple hero's welcome, minus the hoopla. It was exactly how Capt. Richard Phillips wanted it.

One town over from his home in Underhill, Vermont, hundreds showed up for a potluck picnic and a chance to embrace a rather reluctant hero in person.

"I want to thank all Americans who sent me many, many, many, many letters of support, prayer advice and very kind words," Phillips said.

Since his return home last week, Capt. Phillips has avoided the spotlight. In fact, until now, the welcoming committee consisted of a few yellow ribbons and some homemade signs.

One of them, made by an afterschool art class, greeted Capt. Phillips at the park. The art teacher who made the sign said, "People just want to welcome him home and show him how much we care and how glad we are that it turned out all right."

Phillips insists that five days as hostage in a lifeboat doesn't make him a hero.

"If you see someone in the military in a restaurant or on the street, shake their hand and thank them for what they do day in and day out," he said.

Superhero was how he described the highly trained Navy Seals who pulled off a daring rescue that brought him home safely into the arms of his wife and two children.

His wife, Andrea, also spoke briefly during the picnic.

"One morning I woke up and there and there all these yellow ribbons on my front porch and fence," she said. "And seeing them come down the road was just unbelievably heartwarming. It just reinforced my belief that there is good in people and united we do stand."

On Thursday, Phillips is scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to talk about the attack on his ship the Maersk Alabama and his five-day captivity by Somali pirates. But he didn't comment publicly Saturday about his ordeal in the Indian Ocean.

"This is true American community in a true caring from each other," he said. "I am touched."

This day was about a former hostage and the audience he unwittingly held captive, who simply wanted to welcome him home.

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