KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Matthew Heath, a U.S. Marine veteran who was freed from a Venezuelan prison after a more than two-yearlong detainment, was welcomed back to Union County on Tuesday with a parade.
Heath was arrested in Venezuela in September 2020 on allegations of espionage and terrorism. The U.S. State Department disputed the charges and classified him as wrongfully detained until he was freed in a prisoner exchange in early October.
When they learned Heath would be released, the family they had “never lost hope” that he would return home. In September, the U.S. State Department released a statement marking Heath’s 2 years in captivity saying Secretary of State Antony Blinken was “personally focused on bringing US Nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained home.”
On Tuesday, Heath returned home to Union County.
Heath’s aunt told WATE that the mayor of Union County wanted to do “something special” to celebrate his return, so a police escort was set up and students at Maynardville Elementary School took a break from classwork to line the street.
A video shared with WATE showed the moment Heath was reunited with his family at a hospital in San Antonio, Texas after undergoing a full medical evaluation.