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Former Hostage Tracy Welcomed at Homecoming

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Setting foot on U.S. soil Wednesday for the first time in more than 26 years, freed American hostage Edward A. Tracy raised both arms in a victory salute, then waved and grinned at a small crowd of well-wishers at Hanscom Air Force Base near Boston.

Despite the show of high spirits and good humor four days after he was set free by his Muslim extremist captors, Tracy’s long ordeal may not be over, according to doctors at the Boston Veterans Affairs Medical Center. They are concerned that he may be suffering from trauma induced by nearly five years of captivity at the hands of the Revolutionary Justice Organization in Lebanon.

As he stepped from the U.S. Air Force jet that brought him back to the United States, the 60-year-old native of Burlington, Vt., leaned on his two daughters, Margaret Ann, 28, and Monica, 23.

Before stepping off the plane, Tracy greeted his sister and brother-in-law, Maria and Denis Lambert, whom he had not seen since 1965. The Lamberts traveled to Boston from the Burlington home they share with Tracy’s 83-year-old mother, Doris Tracy, who did not make the trip.

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Tracy had been reunited with his son Lawrence, 29, and his two daughters Tuesday at the U.S. military hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany. The daughters, who live in the Canary Islands, accompanied Tracy on the flight here from Rhine Main airfield. Lawrence Tracy, who lives in Germany, was not aboard the flight.

Also accompanying Tracy to Boston were an Air Force nurse and a medical technician who were part of the team assigned to him at the U.S. hospital in Germany, where he was initially examined.

Officials from the State Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs attended the short welcoming ceremony, which included a military honor guard and a red-carpet welcome.

The crowd of onlookers, mainly base employees and their families, began cheering when the KC-135 jet came into view. As the former translator and book salesman began his descent from the plane, the well-wishers burst into applause and an Air Force band began playing.

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Some of those who turned out to welcome Tracy held aloft signs that read, “Welcome Home Mr. Tracy” and “America Cares.”

With small U.S. flags fluttering from his shirt and jacket pockets, Tracy paused briefly on the Tarmac before being escorted to a motorcade that was waiting to take him to the nearby VA Medical Center. The Boston facility is one of four U.S. hospitals specializing in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He seems to be in excellent humor and seems to be doing very well,” said Terry Keane, the chief psychologist at the VA Medical Center, who will be overseeing Tracy’s care in Boston. “We’re very pleased to see that he has a sense of humor and is responsive.”

Upon arriving at the hospital, the Tracy family went to a conference room, where they were said to have enjoyed a more private reunion than that at Hanscom.

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Although U.S. doctors in Germany pronounced him physically healthy, Tracy is scheduled to undergo a battery of tests, including psychiatric, dietary and dental evaluations, while at the medical center, Keane said.

“We will be performing a complete psychological evaluation and will be looking for all kinds of things, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Keane said.

The psychologist noted that anxiety, depression and insomnia are among the symptoms commonly experienced by individuals who have undergone a traumatic ordeal such as captivity.

“He may have a startled reaction to things,” Keane said. “He may fear the experience (of being abducted and held hostage), he may get completely involved in the experience and try to resolve it for himself.”

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Keane, who teaches psychology at Tufts University, said doctors plan to carry out “educational interventions to help (Tracy) process the experiences he has had.” Tracy’s family may participate, Keane said.

Doctors are unsure how long Tracy will require treatment. As a Korean War-era veteran, he would be eligible to stay at the Boston facility if he requires long-term care, according to a hospital spokesman.

Tracy’s family generally has declined to talk to the news media, although his mother spoke briefly with reporters in Vermont on Sunday upon learning that her son had been released.

Hostage Story at a Glance

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Latest developments in the hostage story:

* UNITED NATIONS: Secretary General Perez de Cuellar confers with Israeli envoys in Geneva, then phones Iranian diplomat Kamal Kharazi in Tehran. He tells reporters that Israel is “prepared to make every effort if they know in a clear manner the situation of the missing persons"--the fate of their seven servicemen in Lebanon.

* ISRAEL: Chief Israeli negotiator Uri Lubrani says Perez de Cuellar listened to the Israeli viewpoint and did not bring up the issue of a token release of prisoners.

* SYRIA: Guerrilla leader Ahmed Jibril says in Damascus he has been told by Hezbollah that no Western or Israeli hostages will be freed unless Israel releases thousands of Palestinian detainees.

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* UNITED STATES: Freed hostage Edward A. Tracy arrives in Boston and is taken to a Veterans Administration hospital noted for its treatment of what is known as post-traumatic stress syndrome.


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