Former Marine jailed in Mexico speaks out
MIAMI (WSVN) -- A former Marine is breaking his silence after he spent months in a Mexican jail, chained up with no communication.
Though John Hammar can now joke about it, "I need a vacation," he said after recalling his last trip, which became the nightmare of his life.
The 27-year-old was headed to Costa Rica in a Winnebago in August for a surfing trip with a friend.
As part of that adventure, Hammar brought with him a shotgun to go hunting. And when they got to the Mexican border, he filled out paperwork to declare that family heirloom, but when Mexican officials at the border saw the gun, they threw him in jail.
That started an international standoff. "It was pretty devastating because I did my best to do everything legal and, you know, I was misinformed by a handful of people," said Hammar, "and I had to go to jail."
In jail, Hammar says his life was threatened. For months his parents, through a local attorney, tried to get him out, but to no avail. The former Marine, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, had received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hammar remained locked up and was chained to a shell of a bed for two months. "The solitary confinement that I was in was like an outdoor shed or an electric room," he said. "So I was outside the whole time in the weather, hot and cold, cold usually at night, so it was a nightmare but I got through it."
Hammar was virtually cut off from his family and the outside world. "I only got to communicate a handful of times, " he said, "but sometimes it was difficult because I was getting still misinformation."
Hammar was finally released five months later after his parents went public and diplomatic pressure was applied. "The American consulate came to my room one morning and said, 'You're getting released," said Hammar. "But it's going to take a while, and nine hours later I was crossing the border."
When Hammar finally crossed the border to the US, he said he felt a sense of profound relief. "It was pretty good, pretty good. It felt good to be free again."
It took weeks for Hammar to physically recover. He spoke to 7News not to share the widely publicized story, but to say thank you to all of those who cared and helped. "This experience is definitely humbling, and I really appreciate all the help everyone did for me, really," said Hammar.
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