“My son was not trying to deliver no drugs or no guns to nobody,” Bogan’s mother, Aletha Smith, told an ABC-TV affiliate in Texas.
Through pressure from members of the U.S. Congress, Bogan was freed Nov. 23, and he returned to a tearful reunion in Dallas with his family.
While his ordeal was difficult, Hammar’s has been worse.
Once Hammar was sent to a state prison in Matamoros, mixed in with the general inmate population, late-night phone calls began to his parents in Palmetto Bay, Fla.
“They said, ‘I have your son. We need money.’ I said, ‘I’m going to call the (U.S.) consulate.’ They said, ‘The consulate can’t help you.’ Then they put him on the phone. He said, ‘Mom, you need to pay them,’ ” Olivia Hammar recalled.
Over subsequent calls, the extortionists offered a Western Union account number and demanded an initial payment of $1,800.
Frantic, the Hammars contacted U.S. diplomats, who helped get their son out of a general cellblock into solitary confinement. They didn’t pay the extortion. Nor did they speak to the news media until now.
“He was housed in a wing controlled by the drug cartel,” said Eddie Varon-Levy, a Mexican lawyer hired by the family.
Varon-Levy said that Hammar, if convicted, could receive a sentence of anywhere from three to 12 years in a federal prison.
Making matters worse is the nature of Hammar’s confinement, a matter that’s drawn the attention of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Hammars’ local representative.
“His family has described a very disturbing situation that includes their son being chained to a bed in a very small cell and receiving calls from fellow inmates threatening his life if they did not send them money,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The family also says that the jail where their son is being held is controlled by the dreaded and brutal Zetas drug cartel. The family wants their son back home, and I will do my best to help them."
For all the toughness instilled by the Marine Corps, friends say Hammar is a gentle soul.
“Hammar doesn’t take meds. Hammar doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink. Hammar doesn’t do any of that. He surfs,” McDonough said. “If you meet Hammar, you have to like him. He’s always there for you. If you need something, he’ll literally give you everything.”
So far, Hammar’s parents have gotten little help from U.S. diplomats.
“They take a real hands-off approach. Unless your life is at threat, they aren’t going to do anything,” Olivia Hammar said.
For Garcia and dozens of other Marines who’ve learned of Hammar’s plight, it’s hardly conceivable not to take action.
“He doesn’t deserve this,” Garcia said. “We never leave a brother behind. We never leave a Marine behind. We have to do something.”