- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

ELIZABETH, W.Va. (AP) — Former POW Jessica Lynch celebrated her first night home with fried chicken and her mother’s chocolate pie before trying out her bedroom, newly renovated by community volunteers to make it handicapped accessible.

“It was a well-deserved rest,” said Pfc. Lynch’s cousin, 1st Sgt. Dan Little, in an interview yesterday with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The two-bedroom home where Pfc. Lynch grew up had been transformed by volunteers to accommodate her injuries and nearly doubled in size, with ramps, an extra bathroom and a new first-floor bedroom.

Sgt. Little, who accompanied Pfc. Lynch on the flight from Washington to West Virginia, told Miss Sawyer that Pfc. Lynch was in pain on the flight, but added she wasn’t one to complain.

“I looked over at one time and she did grimace … she was rubbing her knees,” Sgt. Little said. “But to tell you she was in pain, she never would.”

Pfc. Lynch is suffering from broken bones and other injuries and faces months of rehabilitation.

Pfc. Lynch, a 20-year-old Army supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance Company, arrived home to a hero’s welcome on Tuesday. After speaking to reporters in Elizabeth, she was moved to a red convertible for a motorcade to her home in Palestine, a community of about 300. About 2,000 people lined the route.

“It’s great to be home,” the former POW said softly in her first public appearance. “I’d like to say thank you to everyone who helped and prayed for my return.”

Pfc. Lynch received a standing ovation as she entered the media tent in a wheelchair. She wore a beret and a crisp Army dress uniform adorned with medals awarded Monday, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

“I’m proud to be a soldier in the Army. I’m proud to have served with the 507th. I’m happy that some soldiers I served with made it home alive. It hurts that some of my company didn’t,” Pfc. Lynch said.

She read a statement thanking American and Iraqi doctors who treated her and mourned Lori Piestewa, a 23-year-old American who died in the same March 23 attack in which Pfc. Lynch was injured.

“She was my best friend,” Pfc. Lynch said. “She fought beside me, and it was an honor to have served with her. Lori will always remain in my heart.”

Pfc. Lynch beamed as she turned to Sgt. Ruben Contreras, whom family members identified as her boyfriend.

“Ruben, you never let me give up,” she said. “You’re my inspiration, and I love you.”

Her cousin, Danielle Little, told ABC yesterday the two are planning to get married.

Pfc. Lynch said that for a long time, she did not realize that her ordeal had captured the hearts of millions around the globe.

“I read thousands of letters, many of them from children, who offered messages of hope and faith,” she said.

Pfc. Lynch’s convoy was ambushed near the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah in an attack that killed 11 soldiers. U.S. forces rescued her at a Nasiriyah hospital April 1, while five other captured 507th soldiers, held apart from Pfc. Lynch, were rescued April 13.


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