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Matthew VanDyke Returns From Libya And Plans To Return To The Middle East

6:14 PM, Nov 11, 2011   |    comments
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BALTIMORE, MD (WUSA) -- Matthew VanDyke is an American rebel, a Baltimore man who helped overthrow Moammar Gadhafi, after spending five and a half months in the Libyan dictator's darkest dungeon. 

And he's already planning his next fight.

"People say, 'Why did you do this?' And I say, 'Why didn't you do it?'"  VanDyke is happy to be home where he grew up in south Baltimore -- but not for long. "My girlfriend made me commit to three months. Home? And when she said three months, I was thinking that's it? Yes, no problem, I got off easy."

"This is the lock off my prison cell," he says in his mother's sun- dappled living room, holding an oversized padlock. Vandyke was captured by Gadhafi's forces just days after arriving in Libya to fight with his rebel friends.

"When I went missing, my friend Nori, he had these posters made up," says VanDyke, showing off a big missing sign his friend plastered all over Benghazi. 

He spent five and a half months in solitary in Gaddafi's notorious Abu Salim prison. "I heard late at night the sounds of people being violently interrogated. And I though my night was coming....So I trimmed down my fingernails, my toenails with a piece of broken plastic spoon so they couldn't pull my nails out."

His mom was desperate to find him. Most people were convinced that he was dead. "Never entered my mind," says Sharon VanDyke.

But when he got out, he went right back to the front. "I came to this country willing to kill for freedom," he told CBS's Allen Pizzey in Sirte. "It's something that I struggle with. I hope I don't have to kill anyone, but maybe I just did."

VanDyke was on the other side of Sirte when the rebels captured Gadhafi.  "It was sad the way the world had to see his death. But I completely understand why it happened. He put people through hell for 42 years."

With Libya freed -- "I'm 100 percent confident it will be a democratic, capitalist country."

His wife and girlfriend reassured -- "He better get the book written first so he has some money, but he'll do something else, I'm sure," says his mom.

Vandyke's preparing to join the next rebellion -- perhaps in Syria. "I'm very patriotic and I'm a citizen of this country, primarily. But I'm also a citizen of the world."

A world on the march he thinks toward freedom.

A couple of FBI agents stopped to talk to VanDyke the day we visited. Apparently they just want to debrief him. As far as we can tell, there's no law that prohibits Americans from going overseas to fight with our allies.

And VanDyke sees himself in the long tradition of Americans who have gone overseas to fight for freedom as far back as the Spanish Civil War and beyond.

Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now &

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