BURLINGTON, Vt. — The wife of sea captain Richard Phillips says her husband considers the U.S. military the "real heroes" of his ordeal.
Hoarse from laryngitis and making her first public appearance since Phillips' dramatic rescue at sea, Andrea Phillips, 51, thanked the military, supporters and President Barack Obama, who approved the sniper operation that killed three pirates.
"You have no idea, but with Richard saved, you all just gave me the best Easter ever," she said in a statement read by the family's spokeswoman.
Mrs. Phillips was flanked by her 19-year-old daughter, Mariah; 20-year-old son, Daniel; and the captain's mother, Ginny Phillips.
With Andrea Phillips' voice cracking, Alison McColl, a representative of the captain's employer, read the statement as Phillips held hands with her daughter.
McColl said Phillips had spoken to her husband earlier in the day.
She quoted him as saying: "I am just a small part of this. The real heroes of the story are the U.S. military. They are the most dedicated, professional and capable group around. We should all reach out and thank them."
Phillips said the "constant outpouring of support, prayers and yellow ribbons" gave the family strength.
"These past five days were extremely difficult," she said. "We did not know what Richard was enduring while being held hostage on the lifeboat, and that was really the hardest part _ the wondering. My family and closest friends held onto our faith knowing that Richard would come home.
"At times, we smiled when we thought of Richard would tell the story, with his trademark sense of humor," she said.
Richard Phillips was rescued Sunday when U.S. Navy snipers shot and killed the three Somali pirates who were holding him at gunpoint. He escaped unharmed. A fourth pirate surrendered earlier Sunday and could face life in a U.S. prison.
It's still unknown when or how Phillips will return home. The family and McColl took no questions and rushed from the hotel ballroom where they appeared for the media.
"We're all looking forward to Richard's return, when the family will get a chance to tell their story together," Phillips' statement said.
When her husband does return, it'll be cause for celebration in Underhill, a community of about 3,100 residents that's part bedroom community and part farming area. But don't look for a ticker-tape parade.
"Maybe, being Underhill, we could have a barbecue or a pig roast _ when it warms up a little bit," said Wells Corner Market owner Cedric Wells, 53.
"A ticker-tape parade? I don't know about that," said the Rev. Charles Danielson, pastor of St. Thomas Church, where the Phillips family goes to church. "This being Vermont ... there's a real desire to let people be and to respect people's privacy."
Danielson, who prayed for Phillips' release at Easter Sunday services and saw the town's prayers answered later in the day with Phillips' release, said he couldn't take credit for it.
"It's almighty God, and the U.S. Navy," he said.
Brian Searles, director of aviation at nearby Burlington International Airport, said Monday he knew of no plans to fly Phillips into the airport.