The year was 2003 and the media was swarming with news on Jessica Lynch. Worldwide, headlines hot off the press were all showing her name and her picture. Why? Because of the heroism this woman displayed during the Iraq War. Those headlines didn’t speak the complete truth and perhaps the most brave thing Jessica ever did was tell the truth about what really happened during that chaotic scene. It’s time you heard the complete Jessica Lynch story.
To fully understand Jessica Lynch, you need to start at the beginning. She was born in Palestine, West Virginia in 1983. True, Jessica would be known worldwide for being a hero in 2003, but before that she was just a small town girl with huge dreams. She wanted to travel across the world, have an impact of people and bring to light a positive change. She has been quoted in an interview saying: “I wanted to improve my life and not just be there in Palestine forever. I wanted to get out and do something,”
Jessica wanted nothing more then to further her education and be somebody. Sadly, her family didn’t exactly have a money tree growing in the backyard and college wasn’t something they could afford to fund. As high school came to a close, Jessica had to think quick. She didn’t want to get a job in Palestine and be glued to her little town. It was at this time that she started considering the army. It seemed like her only path to a higher education, new surroundings and unfamiliar cultures.
Jessica’s dream was to always be a teacher. The thought of molding young minds really sat well with her. She figured that the army would be the best place to get equipped with the skills a teacher needs. Where else would she learn to be strong, give discipline and lead? She planned on doing a quick service and then starting her life as a teacher. Unfortunately, life happened and it happened dramatically.
When Jessica first stepped into the recruiting office, she was only 17 and it was the year 2000. The world was a very different place back then. The recruiter warned her to really think about joining the army. He stated that at any moment a war could break out and that she’d be part of it. Needless to say, she didn’t take the warning very seriously. It was the year 2000 and war hadn’t brushed shoulders with America in years. That said, she signed right up. By the time Jessica turned in that uniform, she would not only have been in combat, but a prisoner of war.
Her dad, Gregory Lynch knew something about being in a fix to two. You see, he was a truck driver. He knew about pressure and both physical and mental struggles. That said, he imparted some wisdom on her. He told her that if there was something that she was unable to do, she should try her damn hardest to prove the masses she could. She’d take these words with her into the army and they’d mean the world to her when she had to meet face to face with real danger.
Things seemed harmless enough. She was bused out to South Carolina and she figured that after a quick struggle in boot camp, she’d be able to reap the benefits of the army and work towards teaching. Unfortunately, the 9/11 attacks occurred two weeks into her training. This really turned things around. Not only in Jessica’s life, but for the world. At that point, Jessica still didn’t consider that she’d be going into combat.
After finishing up her basic training, Jessica found herself on a ride to Fort Lee, Virginia. It was at their Quartermaster Corps that she would undertake Advanced Individual Training. She was training to be a supply specialist, so naturally it was the place for her. Despite the advanced training, Jessica still thought that her army service was going to wrap up around this point. Boy, was she wrong.
That wasn’t Jessica’s final stop. Once she was through with Fort Lee, she found herself at Fort Bliss in Texas. Fort Bliss is the U.S. Military’s second largest installation. It was at Fort Bliss that Jessica would learn skills that were more business oriented. She felt she was getting a lot out of her training and signed on for an extra four years in 2002. This was a move that Jessica would live to regret.
War broke out only three months into her extended time. They pulled Jessica right out of that comfy office chair and shipped her over to Iraq. Her place was now with the 507th Maintenance Company. Jessica ranked a Private First Class. This meant that she’d be right at the front lines. The minute she stepped off that plane, Jessica found herself right at the center of the Battle of Nasiriyah. Her life would change forever here.
The exact date was March 23rd, 2003. Jessica was taking part in her normal duties, which consisted of her being a supply clerk. She was just traveling along in her supply convoy when they got lost due to some faulty navigation. The small convoy ended up in Nasiriyah. As they crossed the Euphrates River checkpoint, a group of Iraqi vehicles began trailing them.
One could only imagine the discomfort and fear they felt. There had to be some uneasiness going on it that convoy. Before the captain could turn the convoy around and backtrack to safety, it was too late. They had been noticed by the enemy and gun fire began tearing their vehicles apart. Under this situation they had to think fast or be dead.
The gun fire was only half of the disaster. The Iraqis hit them harder when they busted out a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it upon the convoy. This of course caused the convoy to crash into a truck. The convoy broke apart into three groups and a battle ensued that lasted an hour and a half. Two parts of the convoy made it back to safety with no problems. The third group, Jessica’s group did not make it out okay. In fact, everyone in her convoy died except for her.
Jessica survived the whole ordeal, yet she was badly injured. She had a wound to her head and a broken back. After the attack, Jessica was listed as missing in action. A few of her friends that were in the convoy were also missing. When Jessica awoke from war, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was a prisoner of war. We can only imagine the helplessness that she felt at that very moment.
This was no planned attack or ambush, in fact nor the army or the Iraqis could have predicted that a battle would take place that day. It was originally planned that the convoy would pass by the town, sadly they headed right into it. It was a mistake that would bring along so much heartbreak. Things would only get a whole lot worse before they’d get any better. For some it was torture, for others it was death.
Jessica wasn’t the only prisoner that had been captured. They took Jessica to the Saddam Hospital in Nasiriya. The hospital had recently been converted into a military base. That said, Jessica was surrounded by the enemy. One of Jessica’s good friends, Lori was also captured in the attack. Unfortunately, she did not survive the wounds that she sustained. The Iraqis filmed their prisoners and it soon became obvious that torture was involved.
There were two stories floating around concerning the treatment of Jessica. Whereas the staff and the doctors at the hospital told one version of the story, (one that consisted of very good treatment) claims came up of a more grim scene. Mohammed Odeh al Rehaief, an Iraqi lawyer witnessed Jessica being treated horribly. He recalls people slapping her in the face. He couldn’t just stand there and watch that. He decided to put his life on the line in an attempt to help her.
His act of bravery did not go in vain. After Mohammed’s courageous act, him and his family were granted refugee status in the United States. If not for that, he would have no doubt been tortured and killed in Iraq. His family would have suffered a similar fate. Mohammed became mildly famous in the US. The people loved him and he was even granted a book deal for his story, Rescue in Nassiriya.
Till this day, the stories surrounding Jessica’s stay at the hospital vary greatly. Some reported that Mohammed’s wife worked there and that proved to be false, although Mohammed himself was there. Doctors at the hospital still claim that they treated Jessica very well, in fact Jessica has confirmed this. She even recalled that one of the nurses used to sing to her.
Jessica couldn’t be held captive forever. Knowing that there were some prisoners in that hospital, special forces suited up on a rescue mission. It was April, 2003. She was captured for one month. They flew Jessica directly to an air base in Germany. The US government gave her top notch treatment. She even stayed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a recovery center in D.C. It was during this time that her story spread across the world.
Jessica was treated with extreme care when she got back to America. Even strangers treated her graciously. As she recovered in the hospital bed, gifts and flowers poured in non-stop. It got to the point where she had to ask that people just send cards. Her parents requested that people could send donations if they wanted to help. The good vibes must have worked wonders. She was on her way home by the end of July, 2003.
Physical therapy became her second home. She was there often and would go through some grueling procedures. She basically had to learn to function like a normal human being again. Let’s not forget to mention the number of surgeries that she had to go through. Over the past fifteen years, Jessica has had over 22 surgeries. She is also suffering from nerve damage. Yet, this woman is determined to reach her peak condition.
The rescue wasn’t as smooth as could of have been. They freed all the captured soldiers, yet it wasn’t handled in a very professional way. The doctors and staff didn’t put up any struggle, yet they were still manhandled and moved about at gunpoint. Seeing as most of the Iraqi troops had fled long before the raid, there was no resistance in letting the Americans in and no reason for them to be so harsh. The soldiers stated that given the circumstance, it was a must to treat them as they did. They were taking no chances.
Jessica’s rescue wasn’t any regular type of rescue. It was unique and historical for being the first rescue mission of POWs since the Vietnam war. What made it eveN more historical is that she was the first woman soldier in American history to ever be rescued from a POW camp. It’s no wonder that it was extensively covered by the media. It was a groundbreaking piece of history.
The story of Jessica of course got exaggerated in the media.They painted her as a war hero who fired upon the enemy until she was completely out of bullets. She was even awarded the bronze star, a purple heart and several POW medals. She was a hit sensation. Jessica was given a million dollar book deal for her biography titled, I Am A Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story.
Not everyone put down this feel-good book and took a sigh of relief. Something seemed real sketchy about what was published between those covers. The story just didn’t connect with the facts right. It was reported that there were no Iraqi troops and the soldiers had the ability to just walk in and take the prisoners. The book reported that they had to rush out of the hospital as quickly as they could before a raid went off.
The papers poured in with an extremely exaggerated rendition of what happened. The Washington Post painted a picture a of a warrior when they said: “Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her. She was fighting to the death…She did not want to be taken alive.” Jessica denied any of this to be true.
Some people would love the attention and want their image to be boosted as high as they could get it. Not Jessica. Once she was fully recovered, the young soldier went out and denied all the claims. The world was shocked that the military would lie to them and create such a false story and then reward her with so many medals. She wanted to reveal to the world the real story of what happened that day.
She went out and put an end to the confusion. In 2007, she went out before congress to clear her name of any heroic deeds. She went on to explain that her M16 had jammed on her and that she was knocked out by the initial crash. She went on to explain in a quote, “I did not shoot, not a round, nothing. I went down praying to my knees. And that’s the last I remember.” Jessica was no hero at all.
Jessica went out to testify before the United States House Committee and reclaimed her story. Amidst doing so, she also took the opportunity to call out the Pentagon. She blamed them for blowing up the story and turning it into a heroic tale. Jessica also stated that, “I had the good fortune and opportunity to come home and to tell the truth; many soldiers did not have that opportunity. The truth of war is not always easy. The truth is always more heroic than the hype.”
She further told the congressional committee, “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. People like Patrick Miller and Sergeant Donald Walters who actually fought until the very end. 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.”
This story was blown up beyond anything we’re used to it. This had the Pentagon’s push. They went way out of their way to promote her as an American hero. This abuse of her name nearly shattered her. She couldn’t believe how they’d use her as a symbol, when there were real heros out their fighting everyday. She was even more upset that they decided to film the entire rescue. It was totally unnecessary.
All the coverage of Jessica lead to a lot of other soldiers getting ignored. The ones that actually stood up and fought and didn’t get down on their knees in the heat of the moment. Many got angered about Jessica’s image being used. She was blonde and blue eyed. Getting rescued with Jessica was a black soldier who was completely unmentioned. Jessia’s friend, Lori was a Native American and went down fighting. It meant nothing to the Pentagon. They wanted Jessica to be their hero.
Her book turned out to be a big sham. It was full of heroic moments that never happened and had a fair amount of fiction spinkled on top of what was really a young soldier crumbling in fear under enemy fire. When she was being interviewed by Diane Sawyer, Jessica said about the purpose of her book, “to let everyone know my side of the story…the soldiers who were beside me in that war and the soldiers that are still over there.”
Pulitzer Prize-Winner and Jessica’s biographer, Rick Bragg did not let up once she came out with the news that her book was false. He pointed to her medical records and stated that anyone could see that she was abused in that hospital. Jessica denied the claims related to the abuse, but he shot back stating that people had to know what happens to women in these situations.
Once Jessica came out with the truth, you can imagine what all that fan mail turned into. Suddenly she was hit with a wave of hate mail. Mail that cursed her for being a liar and coward under fire. Some people even jumped to the conclusion that she was part of the whole setup and used this scheme to become famous. The negative vibes sent her way were just more hurdles she had to climb.
Nothing hurt her more than thinking about her good friend, Lori. Lori who didn’t get that second shot at life. They were best friends and super close. Here is what she had to say concerning her friend, “I still don’t cope well, to this day, with losing Lori. I still don’t understand. Why did they kill her and not me? Why am I here, and not her? The therapist is helping me, telling me to focus on the memories.”
Over a decade later, we can happily say that Jessica has moved on with life and doesn’t think about all the negativity that came with the whole scandal. She went on to get two degrees at the University of West Virginia. The tuition was absolutely on the army’s tab. Although life took her on a little detour, she is finally working on becoming a teacher. Hopefully her dreams come true.
On top of getting a great education for free, she has also found true love in life. Yup, she is now sharing her life with someone. His name is Wes Robinson. He is a factory worker. She met the factory worker at a 2005 Christmas party. She is quoted saying, “I met the man of my dreams, and I wanted this family. I wanted this life. I didn’t want to be a just a broken soldier with nothing.”
Thankfully, she didn’t end up as just a broken down old soldier with nothing. Jessica now has a family. In 2007, she and her husband, Wes welcomed a beautiful baby daughter into the world. They named her Dakota Anne, after Lori, her deceased friend. I suppose at the end of the day, it was all worth it. Jessica has finally found the happiness she had longed for.
Plenty of physical therapy and twenty two surgeries later, Jessica is still feeling a fair amount of pain. Unfortunately, this is just something that she has to learn to live with. Her pain isn’t all physical though, Jessica is dealing with mental stress as today she suffers from PTSD. Twelve years after the capture, she had a breakdown due to her PTSD and had be bedridden for awhile. Luckily, she is a strong girl and powered through.