WASHINGTON—She was by far the best known of the American POWs, a fresh-faced 19-year-old from the hills of West Virginia, whose small hometown had been tied in yellow ribbons from one end to the other.
One day last week, as it carried supplies toward the front lines, the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Co. took a wrong turn in Nasiriyah and was ambushed. Pfc. Jessica Lynch, and seven other soldiers disappeared into the thick fog of war.
Then, suddenly, against all odds, she was back.
A little before 8 p.m., local time, in Palestine, W. Va.,—5 a.m. Wednesday in the Middle East—Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks went before a microphone at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar.
"Coalition forces have conducted a successful rescue mission of a U.S. Army prisoner of war held captive in Iraq," he said in dry tones. "The soldier has been returned to a coalition controlled area. More details will be released as soon as possible."
That was all. Word soon came that it was Jessica. But there was no immediate word on the fate of her comrades, no report on how the rescue was pulled off.
A senior military official at the Pentagon said only that U.S. special operations forces had made the rescue.
"She is safe, she is in a hospital, and that's all we know," said Lynch `s paternal grandmother, Wyomena Lynch.
The grandmother said that Jessica's father, Greg, had called her from across town in Palestine between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. to give her the news.
She said that she and a host of family members—there are nearly a dozen Lynch households in Palestine—gathered at Jessica's house to share their joy.
"Then we came home to thank God for the miracle he gave us," the grandmother said.
Unlike others in her outfit who ran into the ambush, some of whom later were made to appear on Iraqi TV, Lynch was never officially listed as a prisoner of war until Tuesday—just hours before her rescue was announced.
Lynch, who always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, according to her family, had sought the money to go to college by enlisting in the Army right out of high school.
Women until the mid-90s were not permitted to be anywhere near the field of combat. But they are now permitted to serve in units right behind the combat troops, such as maintenance and supply companies.
Lynch's father had said the family never gave up hope. All they knew was that Jessica was MIA—missing in action.
"We're holding up pretty decent," Greg Lynch, a tractor-trailer driver, told Katie Couric last Thursday on NBC's Today program.
The family has a son, 21, and another daughter, 18.
Greg Lynch had said that all he wanted was "all of our children back over here, and get this job done" in Iraq.
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.