PHILADELPHIA -- Maj. Jeffrey Scott Tice was in a tent in the south of Iraq, hands tied behind his back, waiting to die.
Then his wife and two young daughters saved him.
A group of desert nomads had captured the Air Force pilot after his F-16C fighter-bomber was hit by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile and crashed in southern Iraq.
The Bedouins had taken him to their leader's tent. They seemed to be arguing over when to kill him and whether to shoot him or slit his throat, Major Tice said yesterday at the suburban Willow Grove Air Force Reserve Facility.
"I thought yours truly was going to be goat meat," said the native of Perkasie, a suburb of Philadelphia.
Then the nomad leader looked at the contents of Major Tice's wallet, which included an identification card, a few dollars and photographs of his wife, Cynthia, and their daughters Jessica, 7, and Amanda, 3.
"The chief took a look at them, then he kissed each one and put them on my lap," he said. "He motioned for them to untie me. I scooped up the pictures, and because I am right-handed, I put them in the pocket over my heart and patted them.
"The chief then motioned for me to sit on his right side, which is the side of honor to them."
Major Tice, who spent 46 days as a prisoner of war, recounted that he was denied food and was subjected to electrical shocks and beatings in Baghdad, while the Iraqis pressured him to make a videotape for them which he eventually did.
He said that he was "very worried" about making the tape and that, back in the cell he shared with other prisoners, he said, almost to himself, that he broke too easily.
He said that a British voice piped up and said: 'Don't worry, mate. We all made the film.' "
Major Tice said he was overwhelmed by his reception upon his return to the United States. "I was better prepared for my Iraqi tormentors than the reception back home."