10th anniversary of Jessica Lynch capture


It was March 23, 2003, 10 years ago today, when the Iraq War became personal for the people of Wirt County.

Uniformed officers with the West Virginia National Guard made the unenviable drive to a dirt road outside of Palestine, W.Va. They were bearers of difficult news to the parents of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, the 19-year-old who had gone missing in action in Iraq only days after the war began.

Lynch was a maintenance clerk with the 507th Maintenance Battallion. Her unit was hitched up with the Third Infantry Division rolling across the desert at breakneck speed taking the fight to Iraqi forces. She was driving a massive supply truck that became disabled in the darkness, and soon the convoy slowed, unable to keep up with the fighting force.

Standing along the road with other members of her unit, unsure what to do next, Lynch was pleased to see her best friend Lori Piestewa roll up in a Humvee. Lynch and several of her comrades hitched a ride headed north, but along the way, they received bad directions. Instead of rolling into an outpost to provide toilet paper and bottled water to the troops, what was left of the the lightly armed convoy moved onto the hostile streets of Nasiriyah. Soon they were trapped and gunfire poured from seemingly every window.

Desperate to escape, Piestewa attempted to leave, but rear-ended a flatbed truck in the convoy amid the chaos.  The ill-equipped unit attempted to fight back, but was soon overtaken. Piestewa and others in the Humvee were killed. Lynch was injured and captured.

Back at home, the soldier’s community united in prayer.

“Keep the faith of God in your heart and pray,” said her father Greg Lynch Sr. a day later during a press conference in his front yard. “Jesse’s a wonderful daughter and we hope for her speedy return.”

Across the community, yellow ribbons were out and Lynch’s name became a household word in Wirt County.

“Every war since the Civil War has touched this community,” said then Wirt County Assessor Debbie Hennon on the day word arrived. “I guess we never really thought it would touch us.”

“She cared about everyone and looked after everyone,” Jessica’s high school friend Christy Altopp told MetroNews. “She’s always there to listen, talk, or whatever you needed her for.”

“We didn’t realize it could hit Wirt County like this,” said another friend Rachel Wyre. “That something like that could happen here and affect all of us.”

Jessica’s capture generated world-wide headlines as she became the early face of the Iraq War. The story is most remembered for how it ended a week later with her dramatic rescue from a hospital in Nasiriyah, answering a lot of prayers that were offered up during a dark week back home.

The story of her capture wasn’t nearly along the lines as it had been reported originally by the national media. Lynch recounted the events, saying she never fired a shot in the ambush. Soon after she was out of the military, Lynch wrote extensively about her ordeal in the book, “I Am A Soldier Too.” — the title taken from her words to rescuers when they burst into her hospital room where she was being treated by her captors.

She has spent years recovering from her wounds and moved on with life. She’s now an advocate for veterans and a motivational speaker. She has a child of her own and finished up her college education, which was her reason for joining the military.

However, she still stays in close touch with Piestewa’s family in Arizona and the children she left behind.


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