Jessica Lynch: Life is as normal as it can be’
JESSICA Lynch, no doubt like many soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is never too far away from her war experiences.
For Lynch, the reminder comes first thing in the morning, when she puts a brace on her numb left leg that helps her walk.
"It's become part of my life," said Lynch, who also has chronic pain and scars from 21 surgeries to repair the life-threatening injuries she suffered 10 years ago when her convoy was attacked in Nasiriyah.
"I deal with it the best that I can. Really, I'm just blessed to be here."
In March 2003, Lynch was a 19-year-old supply clerk from West Virginia and among the first in Iraq when the war began. Badly wounded in the attack on the convoy, she remained in an Iraqi hospital for nine days before being rescued by Special Forces.
The fact that Lynch was among the first reported missing when the war began, and that she was rescued, made her an international celebrity. She received a hero's welcome back in the United States and her hometown of Palestine, Wirt County.
There were wild stories about Lynch's capture that fueled myths about her.
On April 3, 2003, two days after her rescue, the Washington Post published a story that said, "Lynch. . . continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting."
"She was fighting to the death," an official told the Post. "She didn't want to be taken alive."
It wasn't true. The military did not confirm the story, but it also did nothing to dispel the myth.
Lynch set the record straight in a book "I Am a Soldier, Too. The Jessica Lynch Story."
Her injuries were sustained when the Humvee she was riding in wrecked during the firefight. She did not fire her weapon.
"I tried my best to get the true story out there of what happened that day," Lynch told me. "I didn't want to take credit for anything that I didn't do, and I've never once said I was a hero."
The last few weeks have brought a series of interviews marking the 10th anniversary of her rescue as the public catches up with Lynch.
Lynch completed her undergraduate degree and is substitute teaching in Wirt County, where she lives. But she just recently decided to go back to school and is now working on a masters degree in communications at WVU, which she hopes will lead to a career in educational broadcasting.
Much of her life centers on raising her 6-year-old daughter, Dakota Ann.
She also does volunteer work for WVU Children's Hospital. Her "Jessi's Pals" program helps raise money for the hospital and toys for patients.
And she works with a professional service that schedules public speaking appearances for her.
Still, there are low points.
"Survivor's guilt," she says. "Why did I come home?"
But she says she pushes ahead.
In her book, Lynch said she very much wanted what she called "a normal life." Has she reached that?
"I think so," she told me. "I'm living in West Virginia. I've got my bachelor's degree and now I'm working on my masters.
"I think that for me, it's as normal as it can be."
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.