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Fmr. Marine Jailed In Mexico Is Home For Christmas

MIAMI (CBS4) - The South Florida Marine veteran released from a Mexican prison late last week has made it back to South Florida after a harrowing four-month ordeal.

Jon Hammar, 27, traveled back to the area over the past few days.

"I stopped at a rest stop and got a couple hours sleep, but we drove through the night," said Jon Hammar, Sr.

The former Marine arrived home in Palmetto Bay before noon on Christmas Eve but due to his illness is not expected to make any public comments.  His father, however, told those he's glad its finally over.

"This is great. I'm glad to be talking to you about that it's over with, because it's really over with," said Hammar Sr.

Jon Hammar Sr. has had a whirlwind 72 hours.  He picked his son up at the U.S./Mexican border, made a stop in Louisiana so Jon Jr. could be treated and made the trip's home stretch late Sunday into early Monday morning.

"I stopped at a rest stop and got a couple of hours sleep but we drove through the night," said Hammar Sr.

As for his son.

"He's inside," Hammar, Sr. said. "He can barely stand up right now. He's really sick. Under doctor's orders my wife took him and put him in bed."

The family was relieved to be together again and gave thanks to everyone from Congressmen and women to the media.

"You guys just turned this Christmas into something spectacular," Hammar, Sr. said.

A family friend, Elsa Cabrera, said Hammar was given fluids and antibiotics during his treatment in Louisiana.

Hammar was released Friday night from the Matamoros prison facility and driven over the U.S.-Mexico border into Brownsville, Texas, where his father 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 okay, I'm okay, I'm tired."

"It was like my first night that I slept all night long without getting up," Olivia Hammar told CBS4'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?'"

Olivia cried tears of joy outside their home when she received word via email her son had crossed the border over the weekend.

"Jon is in U.S. territory. God Bless America. I've never been more grateful for this country. I really am," she said

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 four 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 concern amongst his family.

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."

Neighbors said they had no idea what was happening until the campaign hit the media but are thankful that the Hammars have been reunited in what is likely the family's best Christmas present in years.

"I feel great for them," said neighbor Sean Fisher. "I can't imagine anything worse than having your kid locked up in a Mexican jail. I mean horrible, horrible experience for him. I just hope he isn't too badly scarred from the experience."

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