LOMBARD, Ill. – A west suburban Lombard family is celebrating after a contractor captured by the Taliban two years ago was set free.
Mark Frerichs was released as part of a prisoner exchange between the Taliban and the White House.
Frerichs’ father, Art, said the family’s prayers were answered in an early morning call from President Joe Biden.
“It’s a big relief. We’ve been waiting for this for almost three years now,” Art said.
For the past two-and-a-half years, Art has had a message on the sign in front of his auto repair business in Lombard: “President Biden bring home Mark Frerichs my son. God bless America.”
The American flag in front of his store has been at half-staff.
Art’s son, Mark, a Navy veteran, was working as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan when he was abducted by a group associated with the Taliban in January 2020.
“It’s kinda frustrating,” said Art. “If I was a little younger, I probably would have strapped a gun on my back and gone over there looking for him.”
In April, the Taliban released a video of Frerichs pleading for help.
“Please release me. Release me so I might be reunited with my family,” Frerichs said in the video.
Early Monday morning, President Biden called Frerichs’ sister at her home in Lombard and told her Mark is coming home as part of a prisoner swap involving Taliban drug lord Bashir Noorzai, who had been incarcerated in a U.S. federal prison for the past 17 years.
“Listen, we leave no Americans behind and I live by that creed,” said Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, who worked behind the scenes to free Frerichs, who she says is now at a U.S. military base in Germany undergoing medical tests.
“What we’ve advised him is get the health care,” said Duckworth. “Let’s get you a full physical checkup. Make sure we address every one of your health needs. Imagine the reduced nutrition, the illnesses that he’s had over the last two-and-a-half years that’s been untreated.”
Art said the family thanks the FBI and diplomats that secured his son’s release, as well as the Lombard community for its support.
“I want to thank everybody that prayed,” Art said, his voice trembling with emotion.
What will Art say to his son when he finally sees him?
“Well, I don’t know. Probably I won’t be able to say anything I’ll be so happy.”
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