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Archive for Saturday, July 20, 2002

Former hostage to meet Bush

July 20, 2002

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— President Bush has asked to meet with a missionary who was held hostage in the Philippines for more than a year by Muslim extremists.

Although the details haven't been worked out, Gracia Burnham is expected to talk to the president next week during a five-day visit she and her family are making to Washington, D.C.

"We feel pretty confident they'll meet one day next week," said Chuck Knapp, a spokesman for Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.

Oreta Burnham said her daughter-in-law wanted to make the trip so she could personally thank all the government officials who fought for the release of her and her husband, Martin.

Gracia and Martin Burnham and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap were the last hostages held by Abu Sayyaf rebels after a kidnapping spree that stretched over a year. A rescue attempt June 7 left Martin Burnham and Yap dead, along with four of the rebels. Gracia, shot through the thigh, was rescued.

Gracia Burnham has also asked to meet with members of Tiahrt's staff while she is in Washington, Knapp said. Tiahrt traveled to the Philippines to meet with Filipino government and military officials while she was a hostage.

Also planning to make the trip are Gracia Burnham's parents, in-laws and her three children Jeff, 15, Mindy, 12, Zach, 11.

The family has been told the teenage daughter of Guillermo Sobero, a California man who was held hostage with the Burnhams, might also be there. Sobero talked often to the Burnhams about missing his daughter before he was beheaded by his captors.

"It would be really good for Gracia to get to meet her," Oreta Burnham said.

Gracia Burnham has traveled frequently in recently weeks. She attended a family reunion in Arkansas and is scheduled to return from Sanford, Fla.-based New Tribes Mission this weekend. She planned to leave on Sunday for Washington.

Oreta Burnham said Gracia wanted to get all the trips out of the way before her children return to school in Rose Hill in mid-August.

"She's doing well," Oreta Burnham said. "She's just pretty busy right now."

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