ATHENS — On Monday, as a part of Concord University’s Veterans Day observance, Iraq War veteran and POW Jessica Lynch addressed a near-capacity crowd at the Wilkes Family Chapel on her experiences.
Prior to the speech, Lynch, who is a substitute teacher in Wood and Wirt counties and is working as a long-term substitute teacher in the latter county, said, “I’m here, not so much to share my story as to provide veterans with a chance to share their voice. I’m also here to inspire people to overcome their obstacles.”
CU Vice President for Advancement Alicia Besenyei said. “Soldiers are special people who should be recognized not just today, but all year around.”
CU President Dr. Kendra Boggess said, “Your service helped to shape the way we are.”
Boggess said Lynch, after completing her service, obtained both B.S. and M.S degrees in elementary education.
Besenyei added that Lynch, who survived an ambush of her convoy on March 23, 2003 which left her with several serious injuries, was rescued on April 1, 2003 by the U.S. military, in the first successful rescue of a POW since World War II and the first female American POW rescued ever. She was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the POW Medal.
“Veterans Day is not necessarily me telling my story, it’s for the veterans who are reluctant to tell their stories. I spoke at a church in Ravenswood yesterday and there was a Vietnam veteran who stood up, crying, about the way he was received when he came home. For me to stand here to bring light not just what happened to me and my comrades, but to all veterans,” Lynch said.
Lynch said she graduated from high school in 2001 planning to go to Glenville State in order to become a kindergarten teacher and had her paperwork ready to such an effect, when a military recruiter came to her house to visit her older brother.
“The more this recruiter talked about opportunities to travel and study after serving, the more we became convinced that this would be a way to take much of the financial burden from our parents, so we became Army recruits,” she said.
After basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Lynch went to Fort Lee, Va. for training as a supply clerk, then to Fort Bliss, Tex. before going home for a Christmas break before being deployed to Kuwait.
In March, 2003, the convoy to which Lynch’s unit was attached entered Iraq, but her unit and others began lagging behind due to having heavy vehicles slowing them down on March 21. Two days later, her unit became so distant from the rest of the convoy that they became lost, then the rest decided to split, with Lynch being part of the smaller unit.
“We went into Nazaria at about 6 a.m. When we tried to leave, we found that we were in the midst of a firefight and were like ducks sitting in the middle of a pond,” she said.
During the fight, Lynch’s best friend, her first sergeant and two others were killed and she was knocked unconscious with injuries to her head, right arm, spine, left leg and right foot, which later necessitated 17 surgeries and continual rehab.
After a week of captivity, Lynch was rescued by Army Rangers and Navy Seals. She was then loaded on a helicopter and was sent to Kuwait, then Germany for surgery and recovery.
“I weighed about 80 pounds and was very malnourished,” she said.
She concluded by saying, “So no matter whatever obstacle or struggle you may face, you have the strength inside of you. I tell my story in honor of the 11 comrades I lost in Iraq for their sacrifices.’
Contact Jeff Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org