- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

PALESTINE, W.Va. (AP) — It’s not hard to spot strangers in this bend-of-the-road town, nestled in a hollow surrounded by mountains. They’re the ones who stop to photograph the sign that reads “home of Jessica Lynch, ex-P.O.W.”

Some are journalists. Others are admirers looking to pay respects. Almost all drive up a narrow, gravel road to gaze at the Lynch family home.

Palestine has become the backdrop for a quintessential American phenomenon, the making of a national hero.

“We’ve had book writers, songwriters, you name it. And all of them want the same thing: They all want to be the first to talk to Jessi,” said Emzy Ashby, whose What Not Shop is the only store in town.

Pfc. Lynch, recovering from broken bones and fractures in a Washington hospital, has not spoken a public word since commandos rescued her in Iraq on April 1. Yet the Army supply clerk has become a bigger media star than any other U.S. soldier who served in the war.

Pfc. Lynch was badly injured when her 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed March 23 near the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. Nine soldiers from the convoy were killed; five were captured and held for three weeks before their release.

Pfc. Lynch has been offered university scholarships, a trip to Hawaii, new cars, money. So many gifts have arrived in Palestine that townsfolk have taken to storing them in one of two cells at the county jail until she returns home.

Pfc. Lynch has received a flood of book, TV and other offers. MTV has proposed flying in rap and R&B; stars for a concert in her hometown — never mind that Pfc. Lynch, her neighbors say, is more of a country music fan.

Many in Wirt County, population 6,000, are feeling protective and hope her privacy will be respected.

“When she comes home, and the media gets their first picture of her and sees that she’s hurt and sees that she’s in pain and sees that she needs [to be] left alone, I’m assuming they will,” said Debbie Hennen, a family friend.

All the attention may be daunting for a young woman who, according to her grandmother, does not want to be singled out from her Army peers.

“She doesn’t want to be seen that way. She wants to be just Jessi,” says Wyomena Lynch, who lives in a trailer across the road from her granddaughter’s family. “But she is our hero.”



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