Three weeks ago on 27th April, Trevor Reed was freed in a prisoner swap deal between the United States and Russia. Trevor is an American citizen and former US Marine who was wrongfully imprisoned in Russia since 16 August 2019.
On this episode, we’ll hear from Trevor’s father, Joey Reed on what it was like seeing Trevor being released, how they’re doing now, what’s next for the Reed family and what should President Biden do to bring the other Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad home.
There are very few people in the world who truly understand what it’s like to be in Trevor’s shoes right now. The ones that do tend to be former hostages as well. On this episode, we’ll hear messages for Trevor from former hostages – Michael White, Michael Scott Moore and Sam Goodwin. They give Trevor some good advice based on their own experience.
Trevor was not the only American and former US Marine wrongfully imprisoned in Russia. Paul Whelan has been held in Russia since December 2018. Unfortunately Paul was not included in this prisoner swap and was left behind. We’ll hear a message from Paul’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan for Trevor.
Finally, we end this episode talking about secondary trauma and how it affects campaigners like ourselves. For this reason, we’ll be taking a break to recharge and make some upgrades to our podcast. We’ll be back with our next episode on 3 August 2022. In the meantime, please do listen to all our previous episodes if you haven’t already. Thank you for listening to Pod Hostage Diplomacy.
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Trevor Reed Is Home. Now It’s Time To Heal | Pod Hostage Diplomacy
Daren Nair, Joey Reed, Michael White, Michael Scott Moore, Sam Goodwin, Elizabeth Whelan
Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We work to free hostages and the unjustly detained around the world. Together with their families, we share their stories every week and let you know how you can help bring them home.
I'm Daren Nair, and I've had the honor of campaigning with many of these families for years. These are some of the most courageous and resilient people among us, people who have never given up hope, people who will never stop working to reunite their families. We will be right there by their side until their loved ones are back home. Thank you for joining us. Now, let's meet this week's guests.
Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. I'm Daren Nair. I've been campaigning to free hostages and the unjustly detained around the world, with their families, for over six years now. One of these families is the family of Trevor Reed, an American and former US Marine, wrongfully detained in Russia since 16 August 2019. We interviewed Trevor's parents, Joey and Paula Reed, twice on this podcast. In fact, they were the first American family we interviewed.
Last month, on 27th April, Trevor was released in a prisoner swap deal between the US and Russia. His health was deteriorating and his parents were very worried that he may have died in prison. What happened was Trevor contracted COVID-19 in prison, and while he was still recovering from COVID, he came into contact with another prisoner with tuberculosis. At one point, Trevor was coughing up blood and he wasn't even being given the proper medical attention he needed.
This led to the Reed family, going all out on their campaigning. They wanted to meet President Biden face-to-face, so [(2:00)]they campaigned outside one of the events he attended, and eventually, they got a phone call with the President. They were then told they would get to meet him in person soon. When that didn't happen, they then held another protest outside the White House with news outlets in attendance, and this, then, resulted in the Reeds, getting a meeting with President Biden in the Oval Office. Their meeting with the President lasted for about 45 minutes.
Not too long after this meeting, President Biden gave the green light to secure Trevor's release in a prisoner swap deal with Russia. Now, this was an amazing achievement, given that Russia is at war with Ukraine and the US has heavily sanctioned Russia and is currently providing assistance to Ukraine. We are very grateful for the efforts of President Biden, the State Department, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Ambassador Roger Carstens, his SPEHA team, as well as the Richardson Center, Jonathan Franks, Montel Williams, and everyone else that helped bring Trevor home.
Trevor is currently at a secure location where he's receiving the medical care he needs, surrounded by his loving family, and he's now starting to heal. We are very happy for Trevor and his family.
We asked Trevor's father, Joey Reed, if he could send us a voice message answering four questions. Number 1, what was it like seeing Trevor get freed? Number 2, how are you all doing now? Three, what's next for the Reeds? Four, what should President Biden be doing to bring the other Americans still held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad back home? Joey was very kind to get back to me with his response. Here's Joey Reed, himself.
What was it like seeing Trevor get freed? It was pretty amazing to watch Trevor be loaded into the [(4:00)]plane and then see him walking across the tarmac to the other plane, and just knowing that he was with other Americans and no longer under Russian control, we were just elated. How are you all doing now? We're doing great, just happy to be able to see Trevor each day and seeing him get better, gaining weight, grasping where he's at now and that he's free again, and just being able to hug and kiss him. What's next for the Reeds? The next thing is just to help Trevor get back on his feet, make sure that he's comfortable, and reintegrates into society at his own pace. His primary focus is to help Paul Whelan and other Americans that are still held in Russia and other countries wrongfully. What should President Biden be doing to bring the other Americans back home? The answer is very simple. Anything and everything, as fast as possible. We need the President to do whatever it takes, including exchanges, if that's all that will work, and we shouldn't take years or decades or wait until someone is gravely ill before we use that final option. We need to do it much sooner, and there's too many Americans held for too long in horrible conditions by our adversaries. We need to start trading people, especially if they're criminals who've been here a long time. We need to get them out of our prisons and get our Americans home.
I've mentioned this before, and I'll say it again. The Reeds are an amazing family. Joey Reed is a former US Marine, himself, and a former firefighter. Paula Reed, Trevor's mother and Taylor Reed, Trevor's sister, are just [(6:00)]as amazing, strong, and resilient. They had to spend a lot of time and money these last two and a half years to reunite their family. When I last interviewed Joey and Paula, they said they had some savings set aside for their retirement. They've had to use most of these savings on legal fees, traveling to Russia and Washington DC to advocate for Trevor's release, and many more expenses related to Trevor's wrongful imprisonment in Russia.
No American family should have to do this if their loved one is being wrongfully detained by another country, solely because they are an American. Russia did this because they wanted a concession from the United States. This was State-sponsored hostage-taking, also known as hostage diplomacy, and the Reeds were an innocent American family from Texas, caught between two giants. The US government should have provided more support to the Reeds. They shouldn't have had to use up most of their retirement savings to free Trevor. Americans with loved ones held hostage by Russia shouldn't have to start GoFundMes to help with the expenses to free their loved one. There's still time for the US government to do more here and help this innocent family. I hope they do, because Trevor's recovery and this family's recovery is not going to be easy, it's not going to be quick, and it's not going to be cheap. They shouldn't have to rely on NGOs, like Hostage US, for assistance. They should be able to get more support from the US government.
By the way, when I say the US government should do more, I want to be clear here that I'm not saying they didn't do good work. They did, especially the US Embassy in Russia. Ambassador John Sullivan and his team have done amazing work, supporting the Americans wrongfully detained in Russia. Thank you, Ambassador Sullivan. Keep up the great work.[(8:00)]
Now that Trevor's home, it's time for him to heal. It's not going to be easy. There aren’t many people in the world who know what it's like to be in Trevor's situation. The ones who do tend to be former hostages, themselves. We got in contact with a few former hostages, and they sent us their messages for Trevor. The first one is Michael White. He's an American from Southern California, a U.S. Navy veteran, and he was held hostage in Iran for 683 days and was released in June, 2020 in a prisoner swap deal between the U.S. and Iran. We interviewed Michael last month and you can check out his episode at PodHostageDiplomacy.com or wherever you get your podcast. Here's Michael, himself.
Hi, Trevor. This is Michael White. You may not know me, but we both have the same spokesman in Jonathan Franks. First off, I want to say congratulations on finally getting back. I know that was a very long and difficult ordeal that you went through, and everything like that. Now that you're back, you have a pretty good support system from what I've seen. I met your father in Washington DC. It looks like your father and mother will be able to assist you in quite a few ways, but as you re-acclimate to being back here in the United States, if you need additional assistance in any particular area, such as personal, financial, or medical affairs, one of the things you could do is look at the James Foley Foundation, which your father's familiar with, or Hostage US. They're very helpful, they helped me in a lot of areas, and if there's some particularly difficult areas that you're addressing, they can be of assistance in that area, too.
Once again, welcome back. We'll talk later. Bye.
You may have heard Michael mention Jonathan Franks and his message to Trevor. Jonathan is a crisis management consultant who works for a talk show host and US Navy veteran, Montel Williams. [(10:00)]Jonathan and Montel do great work, helping free American veterans wrongfully imprisoned overseas. They've helped free marine veteran Andrew Tahmooressi, held in Mexico, Marine veteran, Amir Hekmati, and Navy veteran, Michael White, who you just heard from, held in Iran, and now, Marine veteran, Trevor Reed, held in Russia. We interviewed Jonathan in February, and you can find out more about his work by checking out that episode.
Our next message comes from German-American journalist, Michael Scott Moore. In 2012, Michael was taken hostage by Somali pirates and held in captivity for 977 days. We interviewed Michael in March. Feel free to check out this episode, as well. It's been seven years since Michael has been released, and he's been helping other hostages and their families. He is remarkably strong and resilient. If you speak to him, you'll never be able to tell that this is a guy who was held hostage for almost 1,000 days by Somali pirates. In his own words, though, he is high-functioning, but he still gets panic attacks from time to time. Like many former hostages, his recovery is still ongoing. Here is Michael's message for Trevor.
Michael Scott Moore:
Hi, Trevor. It's Michael Scott Moore. I just wanted to say I'm really glad you're home, especially in this political climate. I want to emphasize that no one can tell you how to feel. You should be exactly as emotional or as unemotional as you want to be because your body and your brain know how to improve. They know how to heal. You just have to give yourself time. Don't rush anything, okay? Take care. Bye.
On 25th May 2019, 30-year-old American citizen, Sam Goodwin, was detained at a Syrian Army checkpoint in the Northeast part of Syria. He was held in captivity for 62 days. Now, a free [(12:00)]man and back home in the United States, Sam has been working with the families of hostages to free their loved ones. Here is Sam's message for Trevor.
Hi, it's Sam Goodwin here. Daren, thanks so much for bringing us all together. Trevor, as you've probably learned over the past few weeks, there was a remarkable community of people who worked to bring you home safely, and I know I speak for all of them when I say how thrilled we are that you're back here in the United States with your family. Over the coming months, just remember that when it comes to how and when you want to share the details of your story and which medical or health resources, to potentially pursue, or which people you want to meet with or how much time to take to do any of these things, just remember that you're in the driver's seat, and there's an incredible support system available to you that you can always lean on. It may be a bit overwhelming right now, which, of course, is normal, but we're all here for you. I hope to have the chance to meet you someday. Until then, be well, and welcome home.
Now, for those of you who are regular listeners of this podcast, you know that Trevor Reed was not the only American and former US Marine wrongfully detained in Russia. Paul Whelan from Michigan has been wrongfully detained in Russia since December, 2018. We've interviewed Paul's sister, Elizabeth Whelan, three times on this podcast. The Reeds and the Whelans have been campaigning closely for years to free their loved ones, the prisoner swap deal between the US and Russia that freed Trevor didn't include Paul. Paul was left behind. We spoke to Elizabeth Whelan in detail about this a couple episodes ago. Please do give that a listen, as well. As you can imagine, Paul and his family were very upset that they were left behind, [(14:00)]but at the same time, they are very happy for Trevor and his family. Here is Elizabeth's message for Trevor.
Hi, Trevor. This is Elizabeth Whelan for the Whelan family, welcoming you home and wishing you all the best and a speedy recovery. Thanks so much for everything you've done to help my brother, Paul. I know we'll see him home soon, and hopefully, the two of you will be able to meet up and share notes. Take care. Talk to you soon.
So far in this episode, you've heard a lot of talk about taking time to heal.
This doesn't just apply to hostages and their families. It applies to campaigners like ourselves, too. I used to be a Director on the board of Amnesty International UK, and I've campaigned with many families for the release of their loved ones. Today at Pod Hostage Diplomacy, I'm still campaigning with multiple families. Unfortunately, these cases, they don't stop coming. Almost every single day, I get a message from a family member with an update or a request.
Amnesty previously wrote an article about what they call secondary trauma. Every family of someone held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad is in a constant state of trauma. Some days, it's a high level of trauma. Some days, it's a low level of trauma, but it's always there. For campaigners like ourselves who work closely with the families, we get affected by this trauma, too. It's not as much as the family experiences, however, because we work with many families, the trauma that is passed on from each family adds up. If we don't take a step back periodically to get some rest, to recharge, we won't be able to keep doing this for long.
For this reason, we, at Pod Hostage Diplomacy, will be taking a one-month break. We'll also be using this time to make some upgrades to our podcast, and we'll be returning with our [(16:00)]next episode on 15 June, 2022. In the meantime, please do check out our previous episodes, if you haven't already. If you're listening to this episode on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or Podchaser and you like what we're trying to do, please do give us a good rating and a review on those podcast apps. That will tell the algorithm that Pod Hostage Diplomacy is worth listening to, and you'll make the stories of these hostages available to more people who will take action and help bring them home.
Thank you to all our listeners like you for giving us your time. It means the world to us. Take care, and we'll be back in a month. Goodbye.