As we approach the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, this story from the Zanesville Times Recorder caught my eye; I thought it should be circulated to a wider audience
Everyone who remembers the invasion of Iraq will recall the story of this WVa girl who served and survived.
Former POW speaks at Morgan County Fair
McCONNELSVILLE — When a stranger walked into her life in 2001, Jessica Lynch had no way of knowing her life would change forever.
That Army sergeant didn’t have to work hard to get Lynch, then 18, to join the Army. She had siblings at home who wanted to go to college, just as she did, and struggling parents.
Lynch told a crowd Tuesday night at the Morgan County Fairgrounds that when she joined the Army, she thought it would be an opportunity to further her education and see the world.
“I wanted to be the best I could be,” Lynch said.
Lynch said she was scared when she was shipped to Iraq in 2003, but didn’t know how scared she would become just three days later.
On March 23, 2003, while she was with the 507th Maintenance Company, her convoy took a wrong turn and was surrounded near Nasiriyah.
With only 33 American soldiers, Lynch said they were like “sitting ducks in a pond.”
“They were shooting at us, setting ourtrucks on fire and throwing RPGs,” Lynch told the crowd. “We had nowhere to go. I knew then I was dead.”
Knocked unconscious, Lynch’s next memory is of waking up in a hospital somewhere in Iraq, again surrounded by enemy forces.
Lynch had been listed as missing. She later learned 11 soldiers were killed in the fight.
“These soldiers were all just standing around my bed,” Lynch said.
In pain from numerous broken bones and wounds, Lynch said all she could do was pray she would live and be rescued.
“All I knew was that I was alone,” Lynch said. “I knew I had to keep my faith and to persevere.
For nine days, Lynch said she had no food, no water and no real medical attention. One day, she was wheeled into an operating room.
“I just remember this was not something I wanted to do,” Lynch said. “I could hear a baby screaming in another room, so that’s what I did. I screamed.”
The Iraqi doctors took out one of her femurs and replaced it with a 1940s rod that, to this day, gives Lynch trouble and pain.
“After that, I was scared to sleep, scared to shut my eyes,” Lynch said. “I was afraid I would die or they would murder me. I was scared I’d never be found.”
She stayed in the bed and prayed for rescue, and on April 1, 2003, her prayers came true.
A U.S. Special Forces Unit arrived at the hospital and swooped in, giving Lynch an American Flag and whisking her to a hospital in Germany.
Lynch, now 28, since has had 20 surgeries for her head, ribs, arm, back, femur, tibia and her right foot, which was crushed completely and had severe nerve damage. To this day, Lynch has no feeling in her left leg because of the infection that set in after the rod was put in.
Going through months and months of pain, Lynch said she knew she had to set goals and work to recover and get better.
“I’ve had five years of physical therapy and it’s been tough each and every day,” Lynch said.
Lynch has managed to move on and forward. She will complete college in December and has been student teaching, her life’s dream. She lives in West Virginia and travels to give inspirational speeches throughout the year.
Lynch also has a 4-year-old daughter, who brings a glow to her face when she speaks of her.
“I learned you have to push past the pain,” Lynch told the crowd. “I set my goals and while it’s hard each and every morning to get up, I do. I do it for myself, my family and my daughter.”
Lynch, who refuses to be called a hero, said she has learned life is too valuable to waste.
“You have to live each day knowing you are going to do something better,” Lynch said.
“I’m thankful I’m here and alive. I’m thankful for my family and the support they give me. For the shoulders they let me cry on. I don’t worry about little things.”
Another soldier in the crowd, Shane Webb, 24, who is with the U.S. Army 13 Fox Forward Observer Company, said he came to support Lynch and to be with his family before he again goes overseas.
Webb was awarded a Purple Heart after being hit with an RPG in May of 2008 in Afghanistan.
“I think about our men and women over there every day,” Webb said. “They are always in my prayers.”
Lynch called Webb a “true hero” as she applauded him with the rest of the crowd.
And as the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, Lynch said she hopes everyone remembers how valuable liberty is.
“I think before 9/11, we took our freedom for granted,” Lynch said. “I think that day brought all Americans together. United.”