Town Awaits Word on Man Kidnapped in Iraq

In his hometown in eastern Mississippi, Thomas Hamill is known as a good guy a family man with two children who took a job driving trucks in Iraq to make ends meet after his dairy farm took a hit.

On Sunday night, several hundred friends and neighbors gathered for a vigil outside the county courthouse to pray for the safe return of the civilian who was taken hostage in Iraq. Many wore yellow ribbons and scrawled notes of support for his family.

"This is a small town. It hits us hard. God bless him, he's just trying to make a living for his family," said longtime resident Marion Gilbertson.

Hamill, 43, was snatched Friday by gunmen who attacked a fuel convoy he was guarding, one of a string of kidnappings in Iraq.

His captors had threatened to kill him unless U.S. troops ended their assault on the city of Fallujah. A deadline imposed by his abductors came and went Sunday morning with no word of his fate.

"I'm just praying," said his grandmother, Vera Hamill.

Hamill works for the Houston-based engineering and construction company Kellogg, Brown & Root, a division of Halliburton, his wife, Kellie, told The Associated Press.

"We're just all pulling together for this man," said Mayor Dorothy Baker Hines, who attended the vigil. The Hamills have a son, around 13, and a daughter, around 11, Hines said.

The show of support was a great help to Kellie Hamill, a 911 operator in Macon, the mayor said.

"Her spirits were lifted from what she heard about the prayer vigil," Hines said Monday. "I told her if there was anything she needed to let the community know. She told me we just need to pray for her and that's what we're doing."

James Jones, who went to high school with Hamill, said financial reasons prompted his friend to go to Iraq. He returned briefly a few weeks ago when his wife had open-heart surgery.

A Halliburton official left Hamill's house Sunday evening without commenting.

In a videotape of Hamill, broadcast Saturday on the Arab TV station Al-Jazeera, his expression was calm but wary. A voice-over read by an Al-Jazeera announcer quoted Hamill as saying he was being treated well.

"I am in good shape," the voice-over quoted him as saying. "I hope to return home one day, and I want my family to know that these people are taking care of me, and provide me with food, water and a place to sleep."

Hamill was in Lamar White's country store two weeks ago when he was home on emergency for his wife's surgery. At the time, they talked about Hamill's experiences in Iraq.

"He said it wasn't bad over there once you got used to it," White said. "He said it just takes a while to get adjusted but when you do it's all right."