Story of courage captivates nation

Posted: Wednesday, April 09, 2003

The story of 19-year-old soldier Jessica Lynch is one made to order for Army recruiters.

Lynch joined the Army after graduating from high school, where she was Miss Congeniality in a local pageant. She wound up in the war to liberate Iraq.

Iraqis captured Lynch after her unit took a wrong turn in southern Iraq and came under fire. Officials said Lynch fired her rifle at the enemy until she ran out of ammunition, bringing down several attackers.

Listed as missing in action and feared dead, Lynch lay in a guarded Iraqi hospital room with two broken legs, a broken arm and back injuries. An Iraqi man whose wife worked as a nurse at the hospital saw an Iraqi officer strike her twice as she lay.

Appalled at her treatment, the man walked 6 miles to approach U.S. Marines with the news that a female POW was alive in the hospital. Officials asked the man to return to the hospital to map the facility and to report on Iraqi guards there. He did so and reported back the next day, at great personal risk.

A U.S. commando force rescued Lynch with a daring nighttime raid. They also found 11 bodies, some of them Americans.

Lynch, a supply clerk, was later taken to a hospital in Germany for medical treatment. As expected, the news of her rescue was the biggest thing ever to hit the hills and hollers of rural Wirt County, W.Va., where she grew up.

But the story has captivated the entire nation -- and rightly so.

Lynch's perseverance under grim circumstances speaks volumes about the courage and determination of the human spirit. The Iraqi man who helped her could have turned his head and walked away. Instead, he risked the lives of himself and his family to confront cruelty and injustice. And, the soldiers who rescued Lynch selflessly risked everything to save one of their own.

Medals should be forthcoming, and it is no surprise that Hollywood already is showing interest in producing a film about the courageous young soldier. If they can convey only how typical she is of young Americans, it could be a compelling movie.

-- Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

April 8

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