NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana man detained by Guatemalan authorities since March while on a church mission trip returned Wednesday to the United States.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson helped secure Zachary Wilson’s release. Johnson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that more than 100 friends and family greeted Wilson as he arrived at Shreveport Regional Airport.

“It’s been quite a day,” Johnson, R-Shreveport, said. “It was just a great affirmation of faith.”

“It is fitting that Zachary Wilson arrives home the day before Thanksgiving,” Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said in a statement.

Johnson said the expressions on the faces of Wilson’s young sons when they saw their dad walk through the airport gate was “priceless.”

“He by all appearances is in great health and in great spirits,” the congressman said. “We would have preferred (his release) to happen months ago, but what an appropriate gift at this time of the year and what a great blessing.”

Wilson, 38, of Keithville, was only supposed to be in Guatemala for a week but was not allowed to leave the country last March. He was detained at the airport while attempting to return to his home after authorities found old hunting ammunition in his bag and placed him under arrest.

Cassidy and Johnson thanked Guatemala Ambassador Manuel Espina for his help in getting Wilson back home.

Johnson said he and Cassidy worked tirelessly to ensure Wilson’s return. “The U.S. State Department officials handling this case went above and beyond to ensure the safe return of Wilson and should be commended for their hard work and efforts in this matter,” he said.

“There were lots of moving parts on this long, long journey.”

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CHEVEL JOHNSON
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