A former U.S. hostage in Lebanon joined schoolchildren and hospital patients from a Westminster convalescent home Thursday to sing “Happy Birthday” and collect birthday cards for captive journalist Terry Anderson.
“Each birthday, I wish you were home to celebrate,” said Father Lawrence Martin Jenco as he read his greetings to Anderson during a ceremony at Westminster’s Liberty Park.
“It’s always been a wish of ours in America that you’ll soon be released. You’re in our hearts, minds and prayers and we hope you feel the love we have for you,” Jenco said, adding:
“I hope this consoles you in the loneliness of a prison somewhere in Lebanon. Love you, Marty.”
Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest who is currently chaplain at the University of Southern California Newman Center, was released July 26, 1986, after 18 months of captivity. Part of his time as a hostage was spent with Anderson.
Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, has been held the longest of the 14 foreign hostages in Lebanon. He turned 41 on Thursday, his fourth birthday in captivity.
Anderson was kidnaped March 16, 1985, by the pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim faction called Islamic Jihad, or Holy War.
Along with Jenco and the children--fourth- fifth- and sixth-graders from St. Luke’s Lutheran School--were two residents of Hy-Lond Convalescent Hospital, Mary Galdes and Dorothy Williams, who are adoptive sponsors of Anderson and Jenco.
“We have a very strong feeling of freedom and the benefits of freedom, and we need to remember and pray for the release of those Americans who are hostages because they’re Americans,” Westminster City Councilwoman Joy Neugebauer said.
In the short ceremony, the children sang “Happy Birthday,” “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land,” and turned their birthday cards over to Jenco, who said he would pass them on to Peggy Say, Anderson’s sister.
Jenco, who said he received three letters while in captivity, said he was hopeful that the cards would make their way to Anderson.
“I’m gonna sing and I’m gonna hope (Anderson) gets free,” said Cami Burns, an 8-year-old fourth-grader at St. Luke’s.
“Our teacher told us he was a very nice guy and we should love him,” Cami explained.