As a prisoner of war in Iraq, American servicewoman Jessica Lynch dreamed of the day when she would taste freedom again. And that was a feeling she clung to until the time she was rescued by American troops. However, once on the outside, she knew she had to reveal the real truth of her widely publicized liberation.
Lynch came into the world in April 1983 and grew up in Palestine, West Virginia. From an early age, she had a thirst for travel. “I wanted to improve my life and not just be there in Palestine forever,” she would later recall. “I wanted to get out and do something.”
So she decided that after completing school, she would join the United States Army in a bid to realize her dream of exploring the world. However, her career choice to join the disciplined ranks of the military seemed at odds with her personality, according to Lynch’s father, Gregory. He described her as a defiant youngster. “If someone told her she couldn’t do something, she’d do it just to show them,” he was reported as saying by Biography.com.
Following her graduation from Wirt County High School in Elizabeth, WV, Lynch headed off to South Carolina to begin training for a role in the military. It was September 2001 – just days after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.
Despite her enrolling in training during such a volatile period, Lynch didn’t think that she would actually be drafted to fight. Instead, she envisioned that her role within the military would be as a store clerk; she hoped that the position would help her develop business skills.
In fact, Lynch only ever imagined spending a short time in the army before returning to her studies and becoming a teacher. However, her dreams were put on hold in 2003 when the Iraq war broke out, and Lynch was sent to the war zone alongside the 507th Maintenance Company.
Unfortunately, it only took a matter of weeks for disaster to strike. Lynch and her fellow soldiers were in the Iraqi city of Nasiriya as part of a convoy when a fault in their navigational equipment inadvertently led them into enemy-held territory. The ensuing hour-and-a-half-long firefight cost the lives of 11 U.S. troops. Lynch was also injured during the incident and captured by Iraqi forces.
Suddenly, Lynch found herself at the mercy of Saddam Hussein’s troops. Indeed, she was now classified as a prisoner of war and held at a Nasiriya’s Saddam Hospital. Lynch had no idea how long her ordeal would last or what her fate might be.
In the end, Lynch was held for eight days before she was liberated. The story of her supposed rescue was later beamed home to television audiences across the U.S. The story served as some much needed propaganda for the government, which was seeking to justify the Iraq war to a domestic audience.
TV footage showed Lynch smiling and relieved after her rescuers had seemingly stormed the compound and saved her life. Tales of Lynch’s heroism were spread far and wide by the U.S. military and media outlets hungry for a story. These included a version of events in which a badly wounded Lynch had earlier fired upon Iraqi forces until she had eventually ran out of ammo and was captured.
The Pentagon released a short film to the country’s media. The film claimed that Lynch had undergone torture and interrogation at the hands of her Iraqi captors. The military media machine even claimed that Lynch had only been freed thanks to the work of a fearless Iraqi lawyer.
The U.S. military’s version of events also had it that a crack team of Army Rangers and Navy Seals raced inside the hospital to free Lynch. Officials further claimed that they were fired on by enemy combatants before risking their lives and flying Lynch to safety in a helicopter.
However, one doctor inside the hospital subsequently described the bizarre moment when U.S. troops, equipped with night vision cameras, stormed what had been a peaceful setting. “We heard the noise of helicopters,” Dr. Anmar Uday was reported as saying by the Guardian newspaper in 2003. “We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital.” But this didn’t stop the troops putting on a show for the cameras – and audiences back home.
The troops were even alleged to have restrained medics and handcuffed a fellow patient to a bed during the carefully filmed raid. “It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, ‘Go, go, go,’ with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show – an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors,” Dr Uday added.
In fact, the story of what had really happened began to unravel in the hours following the apparent rescue mission. It was revealed that there were, indeed, no soldiers inside the hospital where Lynch was being held. Furthermore, it transpired that doctors had even made attempts to return Lynch to the U.S. government in the hours before the raid had taken place.
As the weeks went by and Lynch recovered from her time in Iraq, she spoke out to contradict the Pentagon’s version of events surrounding her capture and rescue. Notably, she claimed that she had not fired any shots before she was captured by Iraqi troops because her gun had jammed.
She went on to reveal that despite media reports to the contrary, injuries to her arms and legs had not come from Iraqi soldiers. Instead, she explained that the wounds were because the Humvee she had been in had crashed. Lynch was reportedly irritated by the military effort to use her as a propaganda tool.
As she recovered from her injuries, she began to speak out more about the truth behind the story. Airing her frustrations, she told reporters that she was not happy with the government’s handling of her case. “It does [bother me] that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff,” she told reporters. “It’s wrong.”
Within months, Lynch was back on her feet and had been released from hospital. She later received a number of military awards for the time she spent in Iraq. She also went on to publish a biography of her life in a bid to tell the real story of her experiences on the battlefield.
Lynch has since left the army and decided to devote her time to family. She has since married her sweetheart, Wes Robinson, and the pair have a daughter together, named after one of Lynch’s fallen comrades. She is pursuing a teaching career and has spoken out extensively about U.S. attempts to use her story as a propaganda tool.