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U.S. News
Jessica Lynch returning to U.S.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

By Cindi Lash, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch will leave a military hospital in Germany today and return to the United States, where she will continue to receive medical care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Deadra Lynch, the mother of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, donates blood at the United States Army Europe Blood Donor Center to help the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center meet its 300-unit per month requirement. (Harald Risch, Visual Information Services Europe, 2nd Signal Brigade FORSCOM via AP)

Army officials would not say when Lynch would leave Germany, where she has been treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, or when she would arrive in Washington. Nor would they say how long she is expected to remain at Walter Reed.

Lynch, 19, of Palestine, W.Va., will be flown from Germany on a military airplane, possibly with other U.S. soldiers who were treated at Landstuhl after being wounded in Iraq. Accompanying her to Walter Reed will be her parents, Gregory and Deadra Lynch; her brother, Gregory Jr.; her sister, Brandi; and a cousin, Dan Little. They joined her Sunday in Germany.

Lynch was captured March 23 after her 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. She was rescued April 1 from a hospital during a dramatic raid by U.S. commandos, then airlifted to Germany.

Since then, she has undergone several surgeries and been treated for a head wound, a spinal injury and several broken bones.

More than a week after her dramatic rescue, the Lynch family's country home has become a sort of tourist attraction, drawing the curious and the concerned from miles around. The U.S., West Virginia and POW-MIA flags fly from a newly-erected flagpole in the front yard. (Jeff Baughan, Parkersburg News & Sentinel via AP)

As she recovers, exuberant relatives, friends and neighbors in her tiny hometown and other communities in West Virginia's Wirt County have been planning for her eventual homecoming. They've already pledged to throw a huge parade and celebration, although they can't set a date until they know when she'll be able to leave the hospital.

But in the meantime, state public works crews are considering repaving and making other improvements to Mayberry Run Road, the winding, narrow lane that leads to the Lynch family's home. They've also been tidying the landscape.

"The governor [Bob Wise] has had them picking up every piece of trash between the Hampton Inn [about 15 miles away in Mineral Wells] and Jessi's front door," said Debbie Hennen, the Wirt County tax assessor and a friend who's helped to coordinate several celebrations and benefits for the Lynch family.

Friends also brought in a bulldozer to dig and smooth the ground behind the Lynches' white, two-story frame home -- a first step toward building a new first-floor bedroom and bath for Lynch. They did so after realizing that Lynch might not be able to negotiate steps leading to her existing bedroom and bathroom when she came home.

The "Welcome Home Jessi" T-shirt has been a hot item in Wirt County. Kathryn Shoffner of Palestine bought one last week in Vienna, W.Va., in anticipation of the return of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, of also of Palestine. (Randy Snyder, The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

More than 1,500 others have spent $5 each to buy T-shirts sold at cost by Shirt Tales of nearby Vienna., W.Va, then printed by Wirt County leaders to read: "Welcome Home Jessi, Pride Of Wirt County And The World."

Proceeds from shirt sales go to a Lynch family benefit fund administered by a local bank; friends set up the fund after Lynch's capture prompted her father, a self-employed trucker, to stop working and wait at home for word of his daughter.

Fund organizers declined to say how much they have raised, but said the fund was boosted last weekend by a car wash that brought in $1,400. They expect it to grow more tonight after a "We Care" covered-dish dinner and auction set for 6 p.m. at Camp Barbe, outside the county seat of Elizabeth.

Also this week, NBC emerged as the front-runner to make a television move about Lynch's capture, rescue and recovery. The network is still attempting to secure official rights to her story, but is aiming for a two-hour movie that could air as early as November.


Cindi Lash can be reached at clash@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1973. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.

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