Phillips says role minor in hostage saga

April 17, 2009 at 5:39 PM   |   Comments

UNDERHILL, Vt., April 17 (UPI) -- Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips said Friday the U.S. military was the real hero in his rescue from Somali pirates who held him captive for four days.

"I'm just a bit part in this story," Phillips said from the tarmac at Burlington International Airport in South Burlington, Vt., minutes after he returned to the United States from Mombasa, Kenya. Phillips was rescued by U.S. Navy SEAL snipers who shot and killed three pirate-captors and arrested a fourth.

Of the military personnel involved in his rescue at sea, "They're at the point of the sword every day. They're doing an impossible job," Phillips said. "I would not be here without them."

Phillips offered himself as a hostage when pirates attempted to take the Maersk Alabama on April 8 and was held in a lifeboat before being rescued by the USS Bainbridge.

Saying he was "a seaman doing the best he can," the 53-year-old Phillips said he was "floored" about the coverage, adding, "I'm no hero."

Phillips gave a shout-out to the 19 other Maersk Alabama crew members, saying, "We did it."

He also thanked his neighbors, community, state and nation "for the prayers and support for my family while I was gone."

Meanwhile, residents of Underhill, Vt., hung banners and balloons as they eagerly awaited the return of hometown hero Phillips, the New York Daily News said.

Underhill resident Nate King, 10, said he is excited that Phillips is returning to the Vermont town after the Indian Ocean incident.

"It's really exciting that he's coming home," King said.

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