BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Matthew VanDyke spent more than five months in a Libyan prison. Then, he joined rebel forces to help overthrow dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He’s now back home in Maryland.
Weijia Jiang was there when he stepped off the plane Saturday evening.
Matthew VanDyke is in great spirits, although he admitted he thought at one point that this day would never come.
Matthew VanDyke is home.
“I’m glad to be home,” VanDyke said. “I wasn’t going to leave until Gadhafi was out of power. He’s gone, so I’m home.”
The 32-year-old Baltimore journalist turned Libyan warrior arrived at BWI Thurgood Marshall Saturday night, just after 9 p.m., holding the flag of the country he fought to free.
“Looks just like himself, I think he looks great,” Matthew VanDyke’s mother Sharon VanDyke said. “Eyes are as blue as blue. He’s obviously gained some weight back. I’m so happy for him.”
The journey to Maryland took nearly 40 hours. VanDyke wore the same clothes as he did when he battled alongside rebels on the frontlines.
“They gave me a jeep, a military jeep,” Matthew VanDyke said. “We put a Russian machine gun on it. I was the gunner.”
VanDyke revealed he went to Libya as a freedom fighter, but lied to loved ones about it.
“I went over there to support the revolution,” he said. “My family did not know that when I left. You don’t tell your mother that you’re going to go fight in war.”
Shortly after getting there in March, he was trapped in a Tripoli prison in solitary confinement for six months. VanDyke shared how he maintained sanity before he escaped.
“I sang Guns N’ Roses songs to myself,” he said. “I tried to name all the Star Trek characters that I know.”
But the tone turned serious when VanDyke admitted he feared he would die behind bars. His family– all holding American flags in greeting– couldn’t be happier to see his face.
“Tomorrow I’m going to go to church to thank God for protecting me during combat and while in prison, spend time with my mother and Lauren, and think about what the next step is,” he said.
Matthew VanDyke said he plans to start training for the next Middle Eastern revolution. He said he would never forget the look on Libyans’ faces as they tasted freedom for the first time. He also plans on writing a book about his time in Libya.