Wednesday, August 27, 2003

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Jessica Lynch, the former prisoner of war who became a national hero when Special Forces rescued her from an Iraqi hospital, has been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, her lawyer said yesterday.

“She is not a member of the military anymore,” Stephen Goodwin of Charleston said.

The medical discharge clears the way for Miss Lynch to pursue possible book or movie deals about her ordeal, Mr. Goodwin said. Though she has not spoken publicly about her time in Iraq, Miss Lynch has said through a spokesman that she plans to tell her story in a book to be published by the end of the year.

“Like any citizen, she is now free to enter into a contract,” Mr. Goodwin said.

Miss Lynch, 20, suffered multiple broken bones and other injuries when her 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23.

Her rescue on April 1 made a celebrity out of Miss Lynch, who joined the Army to get an education and become a kindergarten teacher.

She returned home last month to a hero’s welcome after a long stay at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District. She revisited the hospital for the first time last week for a checkup, and was granted the discharge during that trip.

Miss Lynch will continue physical therapy at Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital in Parkersburg. She can walk with crutches but is still recovering.

She hopes to improve enough to travel to Colorado in November to celebrate Thanksgiving with her fiance, Army Sgt. Ruben Contreras Jr., and his family.

Mr. Goodwin said Miss Lynch had not signed a book deal with anyone as of yesterday, although Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former New York Times reporter Rick Bragg has been a guest at the Lynch home to do research. The Times has reported Bragg will be paid $1 million to tell Miss Lynch’s story.

NBC plans a TV movie starring Laura Regan that has been developed without Miss Lynch’s authorization, while CBS abandoned its plans for a Lynch movie.

Mr. Goodwin said he wasn’t sure if Miss Lynch is receiving medical disability. Calls to the U.S. Army were not immediately returned yesterday.

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