She has two broken legs, a broken arm and at least one gunshot wound, but American POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch couldn’t be happier, having been rescued by “very brave coalition forces” from her Iraqi captors yesterday.
Pfc. Jessica Lynch shown in Sept. 2000 family photo
“People are parading through town in their cars beeping horns. It’s wonderful,” Linda Davies, Lynch’s kindergarten teacher in West Virginia told the Charleston Gazette.
Central Command spokesman Jim Wilkinson, tight-lipped so as not to tip the military’s hand to possible upcoming rescue operations of other POWs, told Fox News Lynch “was rescued by some very brave coalition forces. … We’re ecstatic about this success, but we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Wilkinson added: “America doesn’t leave its heroes behind.”
What CENTCOM calls the “daring” and highly secret special operations rescue mission was planned after intelligence was developed that led to the knowledge of where Lynch was being held captive, reportedly a hospital. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force pilots and Marines jointly carried out the commando operation.
NBC News reports a resident of Nasiriyah who spoke English approached correspondent Kerry Sanders yesterday and told him: “There’s a woman in the Saddam Hospital who’s an American soldier. Please make sure the people in charge know that she’s being tortured.”
Lynch now is on her way to Landstul Regional Medical Center in southwestern Germany for further treatment.
Defense officials later announced that 11 other bodies – some believed to be U.S. servicemen – were recovered from the site from which Lynch was rescued.
Capt. Jay La Rossa, spokesman for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said Special Forces found the bodies of two U.S. soldiers and eight Iraqis.
When CENTCOM first acknowledged the rescue operation, the explanation was short and antiseptic: “Coalition forces have conducted a successful rescue mission of a U.S. Army prisoner of war held captive in Iraq. The soldier has been returned to a coalition-controlled area. More details will be released as soon as possible,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks.
Meanwhile, Fox News’ Rita Cosby, who had interviewed Lynch’s family earlier but held off filing her report until cleared by the military, reported that the rescued 19-year-old’s family was “elated” to hear the news. Cosby talked to Lynch’s father, Greg Lynch, shortly after he received the call informing him of the rescue.
“You would not believe the joys, cries, bawling, hugging, screaming, carrying on,” said Lynch’s cousin, Pam Nicolais, according to an Associated Press report about the rescue. “You just have to be here.”
The rescue was a miracle, says West Virginian Sen. Jay Rockefeller. “God watched over Jessica and her family,” Rockefeller told AP. “All of West Virginia is rejoicing. This is an amazing tribute to the skill and courage of our military.”
Lynch, of Palestine, W.Va., was listed as missing after her unit, the 507th Maintenance Co., was ambushed March 23 near Nasiriyah. She is believed to have been driving a five-ton truck as part of the convoy. Eleven other U.S. soldiers from the 507th are missing, including another woman, Lori Piestewa, 22, who has not been heard of since the ambush. The incident occurred after the military unit made a wrong turn during early fighting in the invasion of Iraq. Five other members of her unit were later shown on Iraqi television answering questions from their Iraqi captors.
According to KFOX-TV, Lynch dreams of being an elementary school teacher and saw the military as her way to get an education.
“That smile is all you ever see,” the TV station quotes Glenda Nelson, a close family friend, as saying. “No matter what she always had a smile on her face and loved kids.”
The Pentagon has listed seven Americans as captured by Iraq since the outbreak of the war.
To date, 15 other Americans are formally listed as missing, including two Army Apache helicopter pilots captured March 24 when their helicopter went down.