Despite her time spent as a prisoner of war, the last thing Army veteran Jessica Lynch wants to do is deter future generations from pursuing a military career like she did.
“Just because it happened to me doesn’t mean that it will happen to them,” said Lynch. “There is a possibility that they will go to war, or shoot at someone, or become a prisoner of war. But I don’t want that to scare them away from a potentially great career.”
On Friday, Lynch spoke at two assemblies at Turlock High School and took the time to answer questions for the school’s Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Later that evening, she recounted her life story to guests at Turlock Gospel Mission’s “An Evening with Jessica Lynch” event.
During the NJROTC presentation, students asked questions about how Lynch’s captors treated her, how she persevered, and most importantly how she felt once she was rescued.
“Honestly, it was probably one of the scariest parts, other than the ambush itself,” recalled Lynch. “When they came inside of the hospital, I heard them screaming, ‘Where’s Private Lynch?’ and just hearing that, even though it was in English, I knew I was their target and I didn’t know if it was Americans or possibly militia men,” recalled Lynch.
After she was rescued, Lynch relayed to students the amount of physical and mental strength that she had to draw upon to aid in her recovery upon her return.
“Regaining my mental strength was more exhausting because not only did I have to overcome what I just went through, but I had to deal with the loss of my best friend who was killed and cope with survivor’s guilt,” said Lynch.
Lynch was captured by Iraqi soldiers and held captive in 2003 after the U.S. Army supply convoy she was in was ambushed near the city of Nasiriyah. Lynch, having suffered two spinal fractures, nerve damage, and a shattered right arm, right foot, and broken left leg, was taken captive along with five other soldiers. Eleven soldiers were killed in the ambush.
After her capture, Lynch was interrogated and held in isolation at an Iraqi hospital. Lynch recalls the death of the only other prisoner she was aware of, who was also her best friend, Lori Piestewa. Piestewa died in the bed next to Lynch’s after she sustained a head wound in the ambush.
“I was the only American. The hospital was abandoned,” said Lynch. “The Iraqis still used the operating room and when I was taken down there I could actually hear a young boy screaming. But other than that there were no other patients of anybody inside of the hospital.”
Having spent nine days in captivity, Lynch was rescued by U.S. Special Operation Forces on April 1, 2003. The nighttime raid that led to Lynch’s rescue was the first successful rescue of an American POW since World War II.
“The faith I had helped me persevere,” said Lynch. “I did a lot of praying and talking to God because that was the only person I felt like I could actually communicate with. It was a tiring time, but I never actually gave up.”
Lynch now has a 7-year old daughter and travels the country as a motivational speaker. After her rescue, she also went back to school at West Virginia University and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
She has played a role in JC Films production “Virtuous”, a faith-based film that is a modern day version of Proverbs 31, and JC Films movie “One Church”, a political thriller that portrays the stories of two families that create a spiritual revolution.
The former POW has also published a best-selling biography titled “I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story,” along with Rick Bragg, former New York Times reporter. NJROTC students each received a signed copy at Lynch’s presentation on Friday, courtesy of Turlock Gospel Mission.