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Wednesday, July 16

Family, friends excited about Lynch homecoming

By Bob Withers | Huntington Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. - If all goes according to plan, Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch is coming home on July 22.

And all of Wirt County is excited.

Randy Coleman, communications director of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said Tuesday that the former prisoner of war will be released on that date from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Lynch is expected to make a brief statement in Elizabeth, W.Va., the county seat, then travel by military motorcade to her home a few miles south of Elizabeth.

Coleman says she will not take questions from the media and will not address specifics of her capture and rescue.

Her mother and father, Greg and Deadra Lynch, will accompany her on a military medical helicopter from Washington to Wirt County.

Family and friends are ready for her return.

``I'm really happy for her,'' said Ramona Lynch, a cousin. ``I know she's anxious to get home. She probably thought she'd never see Wirt County again. I'm so thankful to the Lord for allowing her to come back.''

But mixed with the joy for Lynch's return is some concern for her continuing recovery.

``I just hope she's ready for it,'' said Rodney Watson of Slate, W.Va., who was her high school softball coach. ``I talked to her brother two weeks ago and he was concerned about her leg. She had just gotten the `halo' off and was walking with a walker.''

Watson says Lynch has been walking with the aid of crutches for about a week.

``I'm sure that was a key point about her getting home,'' he said.

Linda Davies, Lynch's kindergarten teacher, visited with her weekend before last with Lynch cousin Pam Nicolais and Wirt County Assessor Debbie Hennen.

``She's doing great,'' Davies said. ``She was to go to the Wirt County Fair, which starts Aug. 6.''

Davies says Lynch has been staying at Walter Reed's Fisher House with her parents for ``a good while.''

``She just goes to the hospital for therapy,'' Davies said. ``She has amazed the doctors, by what her mother says.''

Once Lynch arrives home, Coleman said, security will be provided around the clock indefinitely - including personnel from the West Virginia National Guard, the State Police and the Wirt County Sheriff's Department. Lynch's 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed on the morning of March 23 near the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. Eleven soldiers from the convoy, including two from the 3rd Forward Support Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division, were killed.

Five others were captured and held apart from Lynch for three weeks before their release. Another soldier was captured and died in captivity.

Lynch, a 20-year-old Army supply clerk, suffered multiple broken bones and other injuries reportedly after her Humvee utility vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed into another vehicle in the convoy at a speed of about 45 mph.