Jessica Lynch, the soldier rescued in a daring commando raid in Iraq, returned to the United States on Saturday to recover from her head-to-toe injuries at the Army's premier medical center.
Lynch, 19, was taken by ambulance from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a huge campus several miles from downtown Washington. Some four-dozen wounded soldiers also were on the flight from Germany.
The former POW from Palestine, West Virginia was carried on a stretcher down the rear cargo ramp of the huge C-17 aircraft, while her parents entered a van. A convoy that included several security vehicles then drove her to the hospital.
Hospital officials said they expected to hold a news conference Sunday. Her family said in a written statement issued in Germany that Lynch "is in pain, but she is in good spirits. Although she faces a lengthy rehabilitation, she is tough. We believe she will regain her strength soon."
Lynch was treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for a head wound, a spinal injury, fractures to her right arm, both legs, and her right foot and ankle. Gunshots may have caused open fractures on her upper right arm and lower left leg, according to the hospital.
The supply clerk was captured March 23rd after her 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. She was rescued from an Iraqi hospital in the city April 1st by U.S. commandos, reportedly after a tip from an Iraqi lawyer.
Before the date of her return was known, friends of the Lynch family had organized a fund-raising dinner and auction in West Virginia on Saturday night to benefit the family. Gregory Lynch, Sr., Jessica's father, is a self-employed truck driver who has not worked since his daughter was first reported missing on March 23rd.
Jessica's brother, Gregory Jr., also is an Army private first class who was repairing helicopters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina when his sister was captured.
When U.S. commandos staged their daring rescue in Nasiriyah, they found a frightened woman who hid under a sheet when they stormed into her hospital room.
"Jessica Lynch," called out an American soldier, approaching her bed. "We are United States soldiers and we're here to protect you and take you home," a Central Command spokesman told reporters after the raid. Peering from behind the sheet as he removed his helmet, she looked up and said, "I'm an American soldier, too."
Residents in a Charleston, West Virginia, suburb have said they are trying to locate the Iraqi lawyer, known as Mohammed. Although his role has not been confirmed by the U.S. military, a "Friends of Mohammed" organization has been formed in the state.
Nine other members of the 507th Maintenance Company were killed in the ambush and were posthumously awarded Purple Hearts.