Private Jessica Lynch of Palestine, Wirt County, became a widely known figure following her rescue during the Iraq War. Born April 26, 1983, Lynch joined the army at 18 to earn money for college. She was serving as a supply clerk with the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company when she was captured on March 23, 2003 by Iraqi forces after her group was ambushed. Lynch was riding in a Humvee that crashed, severely injuring her.
On April 1, a team of Navy SEALS, Marine commandos, and Army Rangers launched a night-time raid on an Iraqi hospital and rescued Lynch. The bodies of 11 U.S. soldiers killed in the ambush were also recovered. Lynch was taken to a hospital in Germany and later sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Before she was released from the hospital, she was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Prisoner of War medal.
Accounts of the events surrounding Lynch’s capture and rescue were incomplete and contradictory, and Lynch herself had no recollection of the period. The official version of the rescue was cast into doubt by reports that Iraqi doctors had attempted to hand over Lynch and by charges that the Pentagon staged the hospital raid for its publicity value. The military also claimed Lynch had gone down fighting, when, in reality, her rifle had jammed. She wrote I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story with journalist Rick Bragg in 2003 to set the record straight. In 2007, Lynch told Congress: “The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes, and they don’t need to be told elaborate lies.”
Lynch returned to her hometown in July 2003 and left the army later that year. She was selected as the 2003 West Virginian of the Year by Charleston’s Sunday Gazette-Mail. Although she continued to suffer from medical problems, Lynch attended West Virginia University at Parkersburg and graduated in December 2011 with a degree in education.
Last Revised on December 14, 2011