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Union Co. elementary school hosts 'Welcome Home' parade for veteran detained in Venezuela since 2020

Matthew Heath was detained in Venezuela for around two years before he was released back to the U.S.

MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. — A veteran of the U.S. Marines is back home after he was released from Venezuela, where he was detained for two years. Matthew Heath was released in early October and has since made it back to Union County.

Maynardville Elementary School organized a parade to welcome him back home. Students stood outside with signs that said, "welcome home" while waving U.S. flags and cheering. An estimated 100 students were part of the crowd outside the school. 

Heath and his family were escorted by deputies through the county, and people cheered him on. He is from Union County and has been able to spend time with family and loved ones after being released from Venezuela.

Heath was detained by the Venezuelan government after he was accused of acting as a terrorist and spying for former President Donald Trump. He was arrested at a roadblock and Venezuelan authorities said he had been transporting a grenade launcher and a bag of money.

He was among the Americans freed in exchange for the U.S. release of two Venezuelan prisoners. According to The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which negotiates with regimes and criminal organizations for the release of prisoners, Heath had attempted suicide earlier this year.

His mother said that while Heath was confined, he was "very sick."

He was detained in September 2020. More than two years later — he's back home.

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