SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Soldier of fortune Gary Acker talked through the night with his parents and then slept late Thursday on his first day home from 6 years in an Angolan prison.
'We stayed up and talked all night,' said his mother, Joyce Acker. 'He talked about his experiences, but he can't explain his feelings.'
Mrs. Acker said that having her son home 'feels absolutely marvelous. He looks so grown up, he looks good.'
The last time she and her husband Carl saw their son he was a zealous 21-year-old jobless ex-Marine.
Acker, upon arriving at the Sacramento Metropolitan Airport late Wednesday night, said he 'would do it all over again.'
'It was partly for a cause. It was for a cause I could be in - against communism. But that's not totally all. I just can't explain why I went; it's very complicated,' he said.
Acker was an unemployed ex-Marine when he answered a newspaper ad to fight for a mercenary force. He said was recruited by the CIA and paid $500 a week to fight against the Marxist Angolan government in 1976.
With a $1,000 advance payment in his pocket, Acker was flown to Africa and spent only four days in the Angolan civil war before he was shot in the leg during an ambush that left six other mercenaries dead.
Sentenced to 16 years in an Angolan prison, Acker was one of three Americans released this week in a complicated prisoner exchange deal for Soviet troops held in South Africa.
'I suppose I was an angry young man,' he said. 'I had a short fuse. Now, I'm more patient, understanding. I try not to worry about anything I cannot change.'
During his time in prison, he said, he suffered verbal torment from his jailers but no physical abuse.
'The longer we were there, the more lenient they became. I was never tortured. I was just verbally abused,' Acker said.
'They'd open the doors in the morning and after a while we could go outside to exercise. We'd get milk in the morning and if we were lucky, bread.
'We'd try to play soccer in the morning. In the afternoon, we'd lift weights which we made. We'd do other exercises and we'd read. My favorite book was Wilbur Smith's 'Wild Justice.''
Acker, whose hair is thinning and who is suffering from receding gums as a result of his diet of fish and starch, said that while in prison he wrote 200 pages of a novel based on his life. But, he said, the Angolans confiscated the manuscript before he left.