Jessica Lynch

Jessica Dawn Lynch (born April 26, 1983 in Palestine, West Virginia), a Quartermaster Corps Private First Class (PFC) in the United States Army, was a prisoner of war of the Iraqi military in the 2003 invasion of Iraq who was rescued by United States forces on April 1, 2003. Lynch, then a 19-year-old supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance Company (based in Fort Bliss, Texas), was injured and captured by Iraqi forces after her group made a wrong turn and was subsequently ambushed on March 23, 2003 near Nasiriyah, a major crossing point over the Euphrates River northwest of Basra. She was initially listed as missing in action. Eleven other soldiers in the company were killed in the ambush. Five other soldiers, later rescued, were captured and held as prisoners of war.

Accounts of the events in between Lynch's capture and her rescue were incomplete and contradictory, and Lynch herself has no clear recollection of this period. Dr. Greg Argyros, assistant chief of the Department of Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where Lynch was treated, stated, "Anytime anybody goes through a traumatic event of any kind, there is the risk that they may have a period that they don't remember what happened."

On April 24, 2007 she testified in front of Congress that she never fired her weapon and was knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed. She woke up later in an Iraqi hospital. She blamed the media and the military of lying for their own gain. She said during her testimony, "They should have found out the facts before they spread the word like wildfire."

After some time in the custody of the Iraqi army regiment which captured her,[citation needed] Lynch was taken to a hospital in Nasiriya. Iraqi hospital staff, including Doctors Harith Al-Houssona and Anmar Uday, claim to have shielded Lynch from Iraqi military and government agents who were using the hospital as a base of military operations. U.S. forces were tipped off as to Lynch's whereabouts by an Iraqi, sympathetic to her plight, who told them she had been tortured and injured but was still alive. The Iraqi was described as a 32-year-old lawyer, initially described only as "Mohammed" and later identified as one Mohammed Odeh al Rehaief. In light of Mohammed's role in Lynch's rescue, Mohammed and his family were granted refugee status by the government of the United States.

Initial reports indicated that Mohammed's wife was a nurse by the name of Iman in the hospital where Lynch was being held captive, and that while visiting his wife at the hospital, Mohammed noticed that security was heightened and inquired as to why. However, hospital personnel later confirmed only part of Mohammed's story, indicating that while Mohammed had indeed visited the hospital, his wife was not a nurse there, nor was there any nurse by the name of Iman working there. While visiting the hospital from which Lynch was eventually extracted, Mohammed claimed that he observed an Iraqi colonel slapping Lynch. "My heart stopped," said Mohammed, "I knew then I must help her be saved. I decided I must go to tell the Americans."

Mohammed's story has been disputed by doctors working at the hospital, who claim that Lynch was shielded and protected from Iraqi military personnel by hospital staff and was cared for well throughout her stay at the hospital. Moreover, according to reports, on March 30, Dr. Al-Houssona reportedly attempted to have Lynch delivered to the U.S. forces, an attempt which had to be abandoned when the Americans fired on the ambulance carrying her.

According to Mohammed's version of the events leading up to Lynch's rescue, he walked six miles to a United States Marine checkpoint to inform American forces that he knew where Lynch was being held. After talking with the Marines, Mohammed was then sent back to the hospital to gather information that was used to plan Lynch's rescue. Allegedly Mohammed returned to the checkpoint with five different maps of the hospital and the details of the security layout, reaction plan, and shift changes.

The U.S. military reportedly learned of Lynch's location from several informants, one of whom was Mohammed. After Mohammed came forward and confirmed Lynch's location, officials with the Defense Intelligence Agency equipped and trained an unnamed person, possibly Mohammed, alternatively listed as an Iraqi informant and as a Central Intelligence Agency agent, with a concealed video camera. On the day of the raid, the informant walked around the hospital, secretly videotaping entrances and a route to Lynch's room. Ultimately, Mohammed was reportedly paid for his services.

On April 1, 2003, U.S. Marines staged a diversionary attack, besieging nearby Iraqi irregulars to draw them away from Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah. Meanwhile, a joint unit assault element of Delta Force, the Navy's SEALs, Air Force Pararescue Jumpers (PJs), and a security force of Army Rangers launched the nighttime raid of the hospital and successfully rescued Lynch along with the bodies of 8 other American soldiers.

According to doctors present, they were herded into groups at gunpoint, treated like insurgents and valuable hospital property was recklessly damaged and destroyed. Additionally, the doctors stated that the Iraqi military had left the hospital the day before, and no one in the hospital offered any resistance to the American forces during the raid. Many military and Special Forces experts have defended the tactics of the operators who led the raid, saying that the men are trained to expect the worst and move quickly, dynamically, and treat each person they encounter as a possible threat.

It was unclear what injuries Lynch had at the time of her rescue, but it appears she suffered a head laceration, an injury to her spine, and fractures to her right arm, both legs, and her right foot and ankle. Conflicting reports also existed that Lynch had suffered gunshot wounds to her left arm and right leg. Dr. Harith Al-Houssona, a doctor in the Nasirya hospital, described Lynch's injuries as "a broken arm, a broken thigh, and a dislocated ankle." According to Al-Houssona, there was no sign of gunshot or stab wounds, and Lynch's injuries were consistent with those that would be suffered in a car accident. Al-Houssona's claims were later confirmed in a U.S. Army report leaked on July 10, 2003.

In the book I Am A Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story by Rick Bragg, the author alleges that Lynch was raped anally during her captivity, based on medical records and her pattern of injuries. Iraqi doctors who treated her have disputed the claim because Lynch's clothes were on and showed no sign of having been removed at any point and the degree of her injuries did not indicate rape—although they were not looking for signs of rape at the time. Lynch has no memory of being raped nor of being slapped or mistreated during her captivity.

From Kuwait, Lynch was transported to a medical facility in Landstuhl, Germany, where she was expected to recover fully from her injuries. On the flight to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the military medics kept her sedated and hydrated. She did not say much, they said, but she opened her eyes. Her family flew to Germany on April 5 to be reunited with her. In a statement, the hospital said, "Lynch had a big smile on her face when her parents arrived."

Lynch underwent back surgery on April 3 to correct a slipped vertebra that was putting pressure on her spinal cord. Since then, she has undergone several more surgeries to stabilize her fractures.

Eleven bodies were recovered at the same time as Lynch's rescue, nine from a gravesite and two in the morgue. Following forensic identification, eight were identified as fellow members of her company, including her best friend, Private First Class Lori Ann Piestewa. All were subsequently given posthumous Purple Hearts. Details of their deaths are unclear.

Private Lynch was not shown during a controversial display on Al Jazeera television of four other supply unit POWs, among whom was New Jersey-born James Riley. That video showed a number of dead soldiers from that unit with gunshot wounds to the forehead.

After learning of Mohammed's role in Lynch's rescue, Friends of Mohammed, a group based in Malden, West Virginia, was formed to fight for Mohammed's U.S. citizenship and to bring him to West Virginia. On April 29, 2003, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge announced that Mohammed Odeh al Rehaief, his wife, and their 5-year-old daughter had been granted humanitarian asylum on April 28. Al Rehaief and his family were brought to the United States at his request April 10. Al Rehaief published a book, Because Each Life Is Precious, in October 2003, for a reported US$300,000.

Upon her return she was greeted by thousands of West Virginia residents and by then-fiancee Army Sergeant Ruben Contreras.

On April 12, 2003, Private Lynch was flown to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to undergo specialized treatment and rehabilitation. On April 17, she underwent surgery to repair a bone in her right foot.

While recovering in Washington, Lynch was inundated with gifts and flowers from well-wishers, so much so that she asked the public to send cards instead. Her family suggested that the public send money to charity and relief organizations.

Lynch was released from the hospital on July 22, more than three months after her injury.

On August 27, 2003, Lynch was given a medical honorable discharge. An authorized biography, written by Rick Bragg, was released in November 2003. NBC made a television movie called Saving Jessica Lynch which was about Mohammed's account of him rescuing Lynch. Much of the content in the movie had been disputed by others.

Controversy also arose regarding the varying treatment and media coverage of Lynch and Shoshanna Johnson, an African-American soldier captured in the same ambush as Lynch, but rescued later. Critics, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, said that Johnson's race was a major reason that Johnson received little media attention and a smaller disability pension as compared to Lynch. Other criticism has focused on the ignoring of other members in her unit, such as Lori Piestewa. It should be noted, however, the criticism was not directed to Lynch herself but what was perceived to be biased media coverage. Lynch always spoke with great respect for her fellow soldiers, especially the ones who were killed in the incident. Lynch had been best friends with Piestewa and at her homecoming gave this tribute: "I especially wanted to mention my best friend Lori Piestewa who died...I was proud to go to war with her and she will always be in my heart."

Lynch is a sophomore student at West Virginia University's Parkersburg campus, on a full scholarship because of her military service.

On May 6, 2006, Allison Barker of the Associated Press reported that Lynch, who had completed her freshman year, avoids her military past at school despite wearing a brace on her left foot protecting nerve damage from her capture: "I think people recognize who I am; they just don't make it obvious. That's good for me because it gives me the opportunity to blend in and not stick out and really experience the college life, just like they are." Lynch also talked about her career plans and legacy: "I know I want to do something with children. But I haven't really found my direction, with everything I've been through....I want people to remember me as being a soldier who went over there and did my job. Nothing special. I'm just a country girl at heart."

On August 24, 2006, Good Morning America Weekend Edition co-anchor Kate Snow reported that Lynch wrote a letter stating she will have a baby by the end of the year. reported that Lynch and her boyfriend Wes Robinson will have their first child in January. Jessica made the statement: "I was not sure if this could ever happen for me, learning to walk again and coping with the internal injuries that I still deal with pale in comparison to the tremendous joy of carrying this child." Jessica gave birth on January 19, 2007 through a caesarean section, and named her daughter "Dakota Ann" after her fallen friend, Lori Ann Piestewa, the first woman (of the US-led Coalition) killed in the Iraq War.

Months after returning, Lynch finally began speaking to the public. Her statements tended to be sharply critical of the original story presented by the Pentagon. When asked about her heroine status, "That wasn't me. I'm not about to take credit for something I didn't do ... I'm just a survivor."

She denied the claims that she fought until being wounded, reporting that her weapon jammed immediately, and that she could not have done anything anyway. Interviewed with Diane Sawyer, Lynch stated, concerning the Pentagon: "They used me to symbolize all this stuff. It's wrong. I don't know why they filmed my rescue or why they say these things". She also stated "I did not shoot, not a round, nothing. I went down praying to my knees. And that's the last I remember." She reported excellent treatment in Iraq, and that one person in the hospital even sang to her to help her feel at home.

An NBC TV movie depicting Lynch's ambush and rescue, Saving Jessica Lynch, was aired in the U.S. on November 9, 2003, starring Laura Regan as Lynch. In an interview published in the August 15, 2005 Time magazine, Lynch stated that she saw some of it, but that the inaccuracies in it upset her enough that she did not finish watching all of it. She added that she may watch the entire film some day.

On April 24, 2007, Ms. Lynch said before the congressional committee that “the bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideas of heroes, and they don’t need to be told elaborate tales”.

On April 24, 2007 Jessica Lynch gave congressional testimony before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Pentagon had erroneously portrayed her as a "Rambo from West Virginia," when in fact, she never fired a shot after her truck was ambushed. (According to her autobiography, her M-16 jammed.)

Earlier in the day, Pat Tillman's brother Kevin also testified; both he and Jessica Lynch talked about misinformation and hype relating to the battlefield and how the military lied and twisted reality for propaganda purposes. She also met with the Tillman family and compared her incident in Iraq to Pat Tillman's in Afghanistan saying that "Our stories are similar". She began her testimony by noting for the record that her appearance was not politically motivated.

In a prepared statement she said:

* "I believe this is not a time for finger pointing. It is time for the truth, the whole truth, versus hype and misinformation.

* "I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary....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 tales.

* "The truth of war is not always easy to hear but it is always more heroic than the hype."

On November 11, 2003, Larry Flynt announced to the Associated Press he purchased photographs of a "fully nude" Lynch who was "frolicking with the soldiers" in an Army barracks. Flynt told the press that the soldiers who sold him the photos "wanted to let it be known that she's not all apple pie." While Flynt admitted he bought nude photos of PFC Jessica Lynch to publish in Hustler magazine, he later changed his mind and the photos were not released. Flynt claimed his decision to "lock the photographs in a vault" was because he thought she was a "good kid" who became "a pawn for the government." "Some things are more important than money," he said. "You gotta do the right thing." Thus, the photographs have never been leaked or published.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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