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Lawmakers Honor Kidnap Victim’s Courage

February 10, 2012

By Sherese A. Gore
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Campbell County teenager who endured five months as a captive of Filipino terrorists was honored Thursday in a special ceremony at the Virginia Capitol.

Surrounded by his family in the chamber of the House of Delegates, Kevin Lunsmann, 14, received a plaque as well as a resolution passed by the General Assembly commemorating his daring escape.

Kevin’s ordeal began in July 2011 during a family vacation to the Philippines. The boy, his mother Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann and cousin Romnick Jakaria were kidnapped and held for an undisclosed ransom amount. Authorities believe the kidnappers were members of Abu Sayyaf, a militant group linked to al Qaeda.

The southern Philippines are a staging ground for terrorist activity. Muslim rebel factions such as Abu Sayyaf resort to kidnapping and extortion of Filipino citizens and tourists to finance their goal of overthrowing the predominantly Christian government.

While Gerfa Lunsmann was released in early October and Jakaria escaped a month later, Kevin continued to be held. Sensing an opportunity in December, he convinced his captors that he was going to bathe in a nearby stream and ran into the forest.

Barefoot and struggling for two days through dense jungle, villagers found the bruised boy and informed the Filipino military.

Some kidnapping victims aren’t so fortunate. In 2001, an American, Guillermo Sobero, was beheaded weeks after being snatched from a vacation resort by Abu Sayyaf rebels.

In a press release, Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, commended Kevin, a freshman at Brookville High School in Campbell County.

“For anyone to experience what Kevin Lunsmann went through and survive is extraordinary,” she said.

“That he outwitted his captors, survived on his wits for two days in the jungle, and managed to find his way to freedom took courage and perseverance that is almost unheard of.”

Kevin Lunsmann (left), a Virginia teenager who endured a 5-month long captivity in the Phillipines, was honored by the Virginia House of Delegates in a special ceremony, Feb 9.

Bryon was the chief sponsor of House Joint Resolution 277 honoring Kevin. It had been passed by the House on Jan. 27 and the Senate on Feb. 2.

“During his two-day trek to freedom, Kevin Lunsmann walked through heavy mud, streams, and mountainous terrain wearing only tsinelas (flip flops) until he found a pair of shoes in an abandoned hut,” the resolution said.

It added that the youth “maintained his energy by eating the flesh of coconuts that had fallen on the ground and climbed banana trees to find food to eat.”

The resolution declared that Kevin “demonstrated great fortitude, ingenuity, and determination when faced with an extraordinary situation in a foreign country.”