TODAY   |  April 01, 2013

Jessica Lynch: I’m ‘blessed and happy to be here’

Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch reflects on the decade since her rescue in Iraq, saying she still has nightmares about her ordeal and revealing she feels “the most pride” about being a mother.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> begin this half hour with jessica lynch , ten years after her terrifying capture and dramatic rescue in iraq. we'll talk to her exclusively in a moment.

>> reporter: it was just days into the iraq war .

>> the u.s. military confirming 12 american soldiers are missing.

>> reporter: among them a 19 years old whose same would soon become the world over, jessica lynch .

>> they flashed across the bottom of the screen that it was the 507th infantry and we knew that was her unit.

>> reporter: on april 1st , 2003 , u.s. special forces staged a brazen rescue recorded on night vision video, jessica was the only p.o.w. to come out alive. you asked your mom, hey, did i make the local paper?

>> yes. it was a little embarrassing after the fact. my mom was like yeah, it's on every news station.

>> reporter: ten years later the west virginia community that welcomed jessica home is now just home.

>> it's a lot of work.

>> reporter: a motivational speaker and teacher who is working on her master's degree. her most cherished title is mom.

>> that's where i feel the most pride because there i'm not, i'm not jessica lynch . i'm not prisoner of war jessica link. i am his mommy. this is my germany bear given to me when i was recuperating.

>> reporter: but on this anniversary she's the focus of renewed attention as an exhibit of her souvenirs opens in charleston. by all appearances jessica is living a happy life .

>> you smile and put on the brave face, protects and hides what i don't want them to understand.

>> reporter: the past is never far from her thoughts.

>> yeah, i still, about every night i have some kind of dream where there's someone chasing me and they -- just, oh, it's hard. it really is mentally and physically draining.

>> reporter: mostly she says it's all good.

>> i'm very blessed and happy to be here and i think that's what counts the most is, and if i tell myself that i'm okay, eventually i start, you know what? i can do this.

>> reporter: a young prisoner of war , now ten years later, a picture of resilience, gratitude, and grace. for "today," janet shchamblian, nbc news, charleston, west virginia .

>> jessica lynch joins us exclusively. jessica , good morning, it's so good to see you.

>> good morning, savannah, thank you for having me on.

>> ten years have gone by. there's been a lot of focus recently on the anniversary. today is the day you were rescued ten years ago. what is that like to go through? is it painful or in some sense are you happy that the world is remembering?

>> a little bit of both to be honest with you. i'm kind of happy that we are finally to this ten-year mark so that i can finally put iraq in the past. i know that it will always be with me, but you know, it's nice to make that mark of, okay, well i've made it this far and yet you know, it is. it's always going to be a part of my life, you know, waking up every day and dealing with the injuries and -- but i do. i go on and i strive and dot best i can.

>> i was going to mention you have had 21 surgeries. are you still dealing with pain? is that just a daily reminder of all that you've gone through?

>> yes, it is. it really is. everything from you know the back being broken to both of the legs. i still have to wear a brace on the left leg to get around, and the right foot keeps giving me problems, but i do, i do the best that i can and just thankful that i'm here.

>> you mentioned that your gratitude at being alive . one thing you think about a lot is your fellow colleagues who did not make it back and particular one of your closest friends, lori paestewa. you talked about survivor's guilt. how hard is that to deal with every day?

>> it's hard. you know, i -- it's so hard to continue every day knowing that lori didn't make it home with me and the reason that she went over there was to be with me and our other comrades and sadly she didn't get to come back home so just having to deal with the fact that my best friend didn't, didn't get to come back and i did, and she had two beautiful kids. i don't know. it's just really hard to know that they're going to have to grow up without their mom.

>> back then you were, of course, worldwide news, not just because of your capture and your rescue but because it came out that there had been some misinformation about the circumstances of your capture and the rescue as well. what do you think about it now, when you reflect back on it, the way that your story was used one way or the other for people, does that bother you, does is it still bother you to this day?

>> no, not really. i know that there was a lot of fabricated misconstrued stories, so you know i did what i had to do. i came out and i tried to tell the world what really happened. i've set the record straight as much as i can, and you know, what people still want to believe or not believe, that's on them, but yeah, i felt it was important to just let the truth be known. i did congress and testified to really just let everyone know, okay, none of this happened. this is the real story .

>> i know you give speeches from time to time, very quickly, what's your message?

>> perseverance. every day i wake up, you know, i have that never give up attitude. as much as i have the ups and down days, it doesn't matter, as long as you keep it in your mind you can do anything, you can conquer it, that's what it's allperseverin g.

>> jessica lynch , thank you so much, it's great to see