After eight months as a hostage in revolutionary Iran, Richard Queen has emerged remarkably free of psychological scars, "more reflective, a good deal more tolerant, very calm," according to his father.
Nevertheless, the 28-year-old diplomat is "very conscious" that he was the only one freed of 53 American captives, his father said, and Richard Queen may "feel guilty" about this.
The father, Harold Queen, gained these impressions during the hours he spent talking with his son in the past several days at Wiebaden's U.S. Air Force base.
The young diplomat and his parents are to leave Wiesbaden for Washington Friday after six days of tests at the base's military hospital, where doctors found that Queen had developed multiple sclerosis during his captivity, Queen's illness -- undiagnosed until this week -- prompted Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to order his surprise release last Friday.
Young Queen met briefly with journalists today for the first time and said that he was looking forward to "going fishing" at his parents' home in Maine.
"I just wish I could be coming back with the 52 others," Queen told photographers allowed into the hospital under tight security precautions. He seemed in high spirits and stood up briefly to greet U.S. television camera crews.
In the midst of writing a letter to Joseph Hall, another hostage with whom he shared a room during his captivity, Queen said he intended to call all the families of the remaining hostages after he returned to the United States.
Queen's room was filled with flowers and telegrams sent by well-wishers from all over the world.
Later, an exhausted Harold Queen talked quietly for an hour on the porch of a hotel near his son's hospital. Looking tired after an exceptional week of strain and emotion over his son, the 64-year-old former RCA public relations executive said his son had been a "sane perspective" about his ordeal. Now free, he does not look back with bitterness.
"He has a deep sense of family he did not have before," said the elder Queen. "He's come out a much more mature person, but I think he's still putting things in their place, in perspective."
Since the seizure of the U.S. Embassy and American hostages in Tehran in November, psychiatric experts have speculated that the prolonged and reportedly harsh captivity could have serious psychological effects on some of the hostages. But Queen's father said his son appears to have coped well with the experience.
"I was impressed, and I think that the doctors were, too, that what came out was a cool, rational, thinking guy, that he held up under extraordinary circumstances," the senior Queen said.
He described Richard as always having been "a mild guy, understated, underspoken." He said he had never sensed any vengefulness in his son and still does not.
"He's kept a very sane perspective," Harold Queen said. "He is not filled with hate or bitterness toward the Iranians . . . He has said so.
"There were among his captors some who were relatively decent and those who were relatively indecent," he continued. "Richard differentiates between those with whom he could communicate and the others who were just bastards. I think that is his reaction. He has taken it on a case-by-case basis. There is no blanket condemnation."
So far, the senior Queen said his son has made only passing references to the hostages experience. Asked what reference, the father said he could not really recall specific examples. He apologized for not remembering, saying he felt very tired.
"We've talked, we've talked, we've talked, and we haven't yet begun to talk," the father said. "It's amazing how conversations after this span of time and circumstances reduce themselves to the little things."
He said that Richard is still undergoing extensive testing and that while his son is "a totally healthily functioning guy," it will be a long time before he "gets his feet on terra firma."
According to his father, one thing that has surprised Queen since being freed is the focus of national attention on him. He was reportedly amazed to see television cameras and reporters greeting his arrival at the airport and he has been overwhelmed by the bouquets of flowers and other get-well wishes sent to him in his hospital room.
"He couldn't quite grasp all that," his father said. "I think it's partly a disbelief that people could care so much. I've explained to him that he's a national symbol."
Harold Queen said his son had heard vaguely of the failed rescue attempt before his release, but that he learned the details from several tear sheets from an American news magazine that were handed to him by one of his captors just as he was leaving Iran last Friday.
Why was he handed these then?"His captors did some erratic things," the father said with a shrug.
When Queen left Iran, he was wearing a pair of plastic Iranian sandals, dirty tan slacks and a T-shirt. The only other thing he was carrying, said his father, was his toothbrush.
"The one thing he carried with him during his captivity was his toothbrush," he said, "and that's what he came out with. That was his, and he held onto it."
When he first heard that his son was being released from Iran for medical reasons, Harold Queen said he was "utterly stunned with joy," but this was mixed with apprehension about what Richard's illness might be.
When he was first told by U.S. doctors his son has multiple sclerosis, the father said he reacted with "horror" and "pictured my son as a basket case."
But learning from doctors that the disease can be successfully treated, he said he and Mrs. Queen felt relieved.
He expects Richard eventually to return to active service with the U.S. State Department, although he says he has no idea when this might be, nor is he sure what specific treatment his son will need for the disease.
"They say stress might have been a factor which affected it, so the obvious thing is to remove stress,' he said.
Several times during the interview, the senior Queen praised State Department officials for being "extraordinarily supportive."