MIAMI (CBS4) – The South Florida Marine Veteran released from a Mexican prison late last week had to be taken to an emergency room in Louisiana.
Jon Hammar, 27, was making his way back to his family’s Palmetto Bay home, after spending more than four months imprisoned in Mexico.
“He’s got some sort of a stomach bug,” Jon’s mother, Olivia Hammar, said Saturday, before he was hospitalized. “He hasn’t been able to eat. He had a banana, drinking some Gatorade and he has a really bad chest cold which we’re a little concerned may be pneumonia.”
Hammar was released Friday night from the Matamoros facility and driven over the U.S.-Mexico border to Brownsville, Texas, where his father, Jon Sr., waited.
The men decided to drive rather than fly back to South Florida.
When asked about their initial conversation after his release, Olivia Hammar said her son told her, “I’m sick, but I’m OK. I’m OK. I’m tired.”
“It was like my first night that I slept all night long without getting up,” Olivia Hammar told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana the day after her son was released. “It was just the thought of not wondering ‘What’s going on with him? Can anyone hurt him tonight?’”
Hammar’s release from jail was met with relief from the family. Olivia Hammar cried tears of joy outside their home when she received word via email her son had crossed the border.
“Jon is in U.S. territory. God Bless America. I’ve never been more grateful for this country. I really am,” said Olivia Hammar.
Jon Hammar, a Westminster Christian graduate, was arrested on August 13th while trying to cross the border on his way to Costa Rica. He and a buddy were in a Winnebago bound for a surfing trip, a form of relief after 4 years in Iraq and Afghanistan and the post traumatic stress disorder that followed. Hammar had his great-grandfather’s shotgun on board. He thought he had the proper paperwork, but once across the border, he was immediately arrested, placed in a notoriously dangerous prison some say is run by a drug cartel and charged with bringing a firearm into the country which is a federal crime.
In a recent photo, Hammar was shown in prison chained to a bed, which caused his family great concern.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mrs. Hammar said. “I could not have imagined it was this bad, the sort of the depth and the depravity in that system.”
Republican Congresswoman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who had written the President of Mexico urging Hammar’s release, said in a statement late Friday night:
“I am overcome with joy knowing that Jon will be spending Christmas with his parents, family and friends… I want to thank my colleagues in Congress, and the American people, who have shown unwavering support for Jon and his family in their time of need, and who have been so instrumental in making this happen.”
“No American should be in a Mexican jail for five months without being able to have his case in front of a judge,” said Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). Nelson made a direct appeal to the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. “We’re grateful. This is a good Christmas present.”
Outside the Hammar family home in Palmetto Bay, yellow ribbons remained tied to trees. Neighbor Lee Fish told CBS 4’s Peter D’Oench, ”It was because of all the pressure from the Congressmen and his supporters that this release happened. And it was all about a will to survive.”
“You guys in the media deserve a lot of credit,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “You guys got the story out there and now this guy is alive. It is one more person who is not in a terrible jail. Our mantra is to being Jon home by Christmas.”
Mrs. Hammar had hoped Jon would arrive in South Florida by Christmas Eve. As of Sunday afternoon, that plan was no longer certain as her son was being treated in Louisiana.
No public homecoming celebrations have been planned just yet.