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Saturday, April 12

Former POW, Pfc. Jessica Lynch, of Palestine, W. Va., is escorted to an ambulance after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland April 12. (Randy Snyder/The Huntington, W.Va., Herald-Dispatch)

Rescued prisoner of war returns to U.S. soil

By Mike Madden | GNS

See video of Lynch's arrival at Andrews Air Force Base (from WUSA-TV, Washington, D.C.)
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Updated 9:16 p.m., April 13; originally posted, 7:06 p.m., April 13

WASHINGTON - Rescued prisoner of war Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old Army private from Palestine, W.Va., returned to the United States on Saturday for treatment at a military hospital here.

Several family members and about 50 other injured soldiers were with Lynch on the military transport from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Andrews Air Force Base. She was transferred by ambulance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where about a dozen people waved flags as the small motorcade drove by and quickly out of sight.

"Jessi's recovery continues, and she is doing well. She is in pain, but she is in good spirits," her family said in a statement Saturday before leaving Germany. "Although she faces a lengthy rehabilitation, she is tough. We believe she will regain her strength soon."

Family members made no statements to the press after landing but waved toward dozens of supporters who had come to the Washington-area air base with flags and signs of support.

"We were coming because of Jessica, but we knew there were 50 troops on that plane," said Donna Schutzius from Vienna , Va., who stood with her son and husband. "We just wanted them to know our hearts are with them."

Lynch is expected to stay at least three days at the Army medical center before being transferred again to a hospital closer to her West Virginia home.

Lynch spent nine days as a prisoner of war in an Iraqi hospital, seriously wounded after the firefight that led to her capture on March 23. Her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, from Fort Bliss, Texas, had been part of a convoy in southern Iraq. When the unit stopped to help repair disabled Army vehicles. Iraqi soldiers attacked them, killing nine and wounding four.

An Iraqi lawyer who saw guards slap Lynch in the hospital was so outraged that he walked six miles to find U.S. troops and tell them where she was. On April 1, commandos raided the hospital, rescuing Lynch and recovering the bodies of nine other U.S. soldiers - seven of them from Lynch's unit.

"Jessica Lynch,'' one soldier called as he walked through her hospital ward. "We are United States soldiers, and we're here to protect you and take you home.''

Lynch, who had ducked under a sheet when the raid started, pulled it back from her face and replied, "I'm an American soldier, too.''

She was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where she was treated for injuries including broken legs, a broken arm and a spinal injury.

In their statement, Lynch's family thanked the hospital and military personnel for caring for Lynch and the other injured service members and said they were praying for the safety of all the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq.

"We also offer our prayers for the families who have lost loved ones during this war, or have loved ones still designated as missing in action or confirmed as prisoners of war,'' the statement continued. "We know your hearts are broken. We hope you will soon find comfort.''

(Contributing: Jean Tarbett, The Huntington (W.Va.) Herald-Dispatch)