A Vancouver Island man is free after being held in Syria for eight months.

Nanaimo’s Kristian Lee Baxter went to Syria seeking adventure but it turned into a harrowing ordeal.

This morning, Nanaimo’s Kristian Lee Baxter appeared at a news conference in Beirut. It was the first time he’d been seen since December 2.

“I’d like to thank the Lebanese for helping me get free,” said an emotional Baxter. “I thought I’d be there forever. Honestly, I didn’t know if anyone knew I was alive.”

His family said Baxter went seeking adventure but Lebanese authorities say he was being held for breaking Syrian law.

In Nanaimo, members at the Vancouver Island Military Museum where Baxter has previously volunteered,  are glad to see he had been released.

“He’s obviously been through a tremendous ordeal and I hope he recovers very quickly from it and gets back to normal life,” said Brian McFadden, the Museum’s Vice-President.

McFadden says Baxter has a keen interest in history and was always friendly with the museum’s visitors.

And he says Baxter looked today the way he’d expect a prisoner of war would.

“It’s bad enough for the person whose shall we say been detained but his family and friends constantly worrying about him and not knowing what’s happening one day to the next. Not a very nice situation to be in for anyone. ”

Canada’s ambassador to Lebanon didn’t discuss the government’s role in Baxter’s release but Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister says Baxter’s experience should serve as a warning.

“This case has had a happy outcome and I am delighted and frankly relieved,” said Chrystia Freeland, in Calgary.

“I think this is also a case that should remind us all to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to dangerous parts of the world.”

Baxter’s mother didn’t respond to an interview request today but just yesterday, she posted on social media saying her one birthday wish was to see her son freed.

A wish that came true today.

Kendall Hanson