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Jessica Lynch tells her story

Former POW speaks out on what really happened when she was captured by Saddam’s soldiers.
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It was a rescue that captivated a nation and a story that would spin out of control. Now, former POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch finally speaks out about what really happened to her in Iraq and what her life has been like since she has been home. Her new book is titled, “I’m a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story,” which was co-authored by former New York Times journalist, Rick Bragg.

Couric: “Rick and Jessica, good morning. Nice to see you both.”

Rick Bragg: “Good.”

Jessica Lynch: “Hi.”

Katie Couric: “I know it’s early...”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “ we appreciate your being here. You’re just 20 years old.”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “You’re from a little town in West Virginia, Palestine, population 900, and your life has been a whirlwind. You’ve been the subject of intense media attention, of course, since you came back from Iraq, and even while you were there. You were at the Glamour Magazine Awards, you were on the cover of Time magazine.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Your name is, frankly, a household name. What has all this attention, Jessica, been like for you because I know you’re kind of a shy person?”

Lynch: “Yeah, it’s overwhelming, but it’s exciting at the same time.”

Couric: “Does it make you uncomfortable, or have you gotten used to it?”

Lynch: “No. I’m still uncomfortable about everything. I’m still nervous.”

Couric: “Let’s recount your story, and I’m going to help you do that because it’s complicated. But I know your convoy, which ended up being 18 vehicles because you all were left behind, you were from the 507th Maintenance Company. You were at the tail end of a massive supply line that I know stretched from the Kuwaiti border up through southern Iraq. Captain Troy King, commander of the 507th, missed a turn that would have taken you around the city of Nasiriya, instead of through the city of-of Nasiriya. And the signalmen who were supposed to be there to direct you had left because you all had fallen so far behind.”

Couric: “We should probably mention because of the weather conditions, right, Rick? I mean, it was just the worst possible circumstances, and almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. And I guess it culminated in this missed turn, you say, not a wrong turn.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Tell me what happened after that, Jessica.”

Lynch: “Well once actually we got into the city and everything was calm for a few minutes. You know, the Iraqis were looking at us and, you know. And then just everything broke loose. It was just tragic. It was horrible.”

Couric: “Were there Iraqis surrounding you, were they all over the place?”

Lynch: “Yeah, they were everywhere.”

Couric: “Can you describe the scene?”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “Everywhere firing at you?”

Lynch: “Yeah, they were on top of buildings, looking out windows. They were on the ground, they were hiding behind stuff. And...”

Couric: “It must have been so terrifying.”

Lynch: “Yeah, it was.”

Couric: “I know that you had been driving a big truck...”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “...but it had broken down...”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “...or gotten stuck in the sand. And the sand was a big enemy for all the troops in Iraq. And your best friend and roommate from Fort Bliss...”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “...Lori Piestewa picked you up in a Humvee, right?”

Lynch: “Yes.”

Couric: “So you all were driving. Laurie was pretty, I understand, cool, calm, and collected during all this mayhem?”

Lynch: “Yeah, she was. She just stayed calm like it wasn’t even phasing her. So, you know, I think that helped us get through, with her, you know, staying calm.”

Couric: “So you all were driving, and your Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Is that what happened? Do you remember that?”

Lynch: “No, I don’t remember nothing.”

Couric: “Do you remember crashing into the...”

Lynch: “No. I just remember...”

Couric: “...five-ton tractor-trailer at all?”

Lynch: “No, I just remember, you know, it was blocked. I put my head down, you know, and just prayed. And the next thing I knew I was in the hospital.”

Couric: “So you remember very, very little.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “But you remember enough to know that you were terrified?”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Did you think you were going to die?”

Lynch: “Yeah, at a point, but I never gave up. I mean, I knew that Laurie was strong and she could get us through this.”

Couric: “And sadly...”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “... she lost her life during this incident.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Rick, I know that you did a lot of research on what exactly — piecing together what happened because if there ever was a case of the fog of war, this was it. It was pure pandemonium at this scene, wasn’t it?”

Bragg: “Most of what we know about it, we had to focus this book tightly on what Jessica remembered about the ambush itself. And everything that I could read — and I read something like 500 accounts of the battle — and then, of course, I read everything I could read from the government. It does sound like everything that could go wrong went wrong, everything that could go bad went bad.”

Couric: “How many Iraqis are we talking about here? Do you have any clue?”

Bragg: “Yeah, but just — it’s safest to say that, you know, the American soldiers were vastly, vastly out-numbered. And they still fought back in amazing ways. They — you know, there were so many people who did things kind of above and beyond the call. I mean, people who dragged other soldiers from the cabs of trucks.”

Lynch: “Exactly.”

Bragg: “You know, they fought back very heroically.”

Couric: “We’ll talk about one of them in particular in a moment.”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AN AUDIO EXCERPT OF: “I’m a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story.”

Audio excerpt provided courtesy of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Couric: “But tell me a little bit, Jessica, about the extent of your injuries. I mean, you were just completely broken apart like — almost like a rag doll.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Tell me what happened to you.”

Lynch: “Well, my humerus is crushed, so I have a metal rod in my humerus. I have a rod in my tib, and then my foot is completely, you know, destroyed. I have no feeling in it. My right foot is — just got screws and pins holding the foot. And then my back, I have cages and pins holding my, you know, the spine.”

Couric: “Are you in constant pain?”

Lynch: “No, not really much anymore. It’s calmed down. I’m kind of used to it now.”

Couric: “I guess one of the things that’s confusing is you were unconscious for three hours...”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “...between the time your Humvee was ambushed or hit...”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “...or the accident happened and the time you woke up in this hospital in Nasiriya. So it’s unclear how you sustained these injuries. Were you able to, Rick, in your research for this book ascertain what happened to Jessica, and was it — are these from the accident, was she beaten and tortured by Iraqi soldiers before she ended up in the hospital?”

Bragg: “Well, it’s funny talking about it sitting knee-to-knee with her. But the truth is, you know, we don’t know. We don’t know how many of the injuries came where. We just don’t know if the broken bones and the other injuries, you know, came in the crash itself, or if they came later. And we kind of tried to be as honest as we could in the book in saying that. We just don’t know. Jessie doesn’t remember. And no matter how many times I asked her, and eventually she would just look at me, like — this is kind of sad, but during the interview process eventually she would just say, ‘Oh, just, you know, leave me alone.’ And after a while, we just had to accept it. We just don’t know where those injuries came.”

Lynch: “No.”

Couric: “It is revealed in the book that you were sexually assaulted, but you have absolutely no memory of that. And I guess in many ways, is that more helpful to you to not remember? And how have you been able to handle sort of the realization that this happened to you?”

Lynch: “Yeah, it’s hard to, you know, to think about it and stuff, so it’s kind of good that I have no memory of, you know, that time span. And I hope that, you know, I never get that back. But yeah, I kind of just deal with it. You know, just — you know, it happened. It wasn’t my fault. And there it is.”

Couric: “I know that you sometimes almost believe that it happened to a different person all together...”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “...and that’s helped you cope.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Meanwhile, at the hospital in Nasiriya and later at Saddam General, where you were transferred and stayed for nine days, you obviously regained consciousness. How did the doctors treat you there? And how did the people at the hospital treat you? That must have been so surreal, because here you were being cared for by the so-called enemy.”

Lynch: “Yeah. Yeah, they actually did help me. They were more helpful than harmful. They actually — you know, I had one woman, she rubbed my back and sang to me at night. And, you know, they gave me crackers and juice. You know, they were helpful. They weren’t there to harm me.”

Couric: “At the same time, you were still pretty scared during those...”

Lynch: “Oh, yeah. Yeah.”

Couric: “...days. At one point, particularly, when you learned that they wanted to amputate your leg. You completely went crazy.”

Lynch: “Oh, yeah.”

Couric: “And you fought them off...”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “ much, even though you were in extraordinary pain, that they basically decided they wouldn’t do it.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “Do you remember vividly fighting...”

Lynch: “Oh, yeah.”

Couric: “...against that?”

Lynch: “Yeah, I remember them taking me down to their, you know, operating room or, you know, whatever the little place was. And I remember the little boy — I don’t — he was a little boy, but I couldn’t see him. He was back. But he was just screaming and, you know, crying out and scream. It was horrible, and that made me feel, you know, even worse because I was like, you know, ‘If that’s what they’re doing to him, what are they about to do to me?’”

Couric: “They were putting on an oxygen mask...”

Lynch: “Yeah. Yeah.”

Couric: “...and restraining you.”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “And finally, after your protestations, they retreated.”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm. They just — I don’t know what happened, but they just gave up. They let me go. They took me back up to the room.”

Couric: “Doctors, I know, in the hospital kept telling you the Americans were coming...”

Lynch: “Yeah, they did.”

Couric: “...which must have given you great hope. And finally, their words became true.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “You heard the Americans coming in.”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “You heard them screaming, ‘Where is Jessica Lynch?’ Tell me how they came into your room.”

Lynch: “Well, they frightened me at first because I thought — you know, I heard the helicopter above and I heard guns and, you know, just horrible stuff outside. And I had seen one of the doctors that was in the room, he kept looking out the window and, you know, that kind of scared me even more because I was, like ‘Oh,’ you know, ‘what’s about to happen?’ and stuff. And then when I heard everyone coming in and just the screaming. And, you know, it was — it was horrible because I thought, ‘Oh, no. You know, something’s about to happen.’ And I wasn’t for sure-yeah.”

Couric: “You were cowering underneath your covers.”

Bragg: “Just because it might be Saddam’s people coming to take her to Baghdad.”

Lynch: “Coming-mm-hmm. I did.”

Bragg: “So she was very scared the whole time.”

Lynch: “Yeah.”

Couric: “And then when you saw those US soldiers, what did you think? You must have been so relieved. Yeah, I was still kind of frightened a little of them at first. And once they started talking to me I was like, ‘Yeah, this is real.’ But it took me — up and, you know, when I was in the helicopter and actually being taken away when it really dawned on me, ‘Oh, you know, I’m going home.’”

Couric: “And then said, ‘Jessie Lynch, we’re from Special Ops’...”

Lynch: “Yep.”

Couric: “...when they came into your room.”

Lynch: “And they were coming to take me home.”

Couric: “And you said, ‘I am a soldier, too.’”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “And that’s why the book is...”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “...named that. I know your rescue was videotaped and you know that and was considered a huge accomplishment. You know, it was a real morale booster during the height of the war, but some people thought the tape gave the impression that the U.S. Special Operations unit was met with serious and tremendous resistance, and that it was this grand, heroic rescue.”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “And it’s not to say that they’re not heroes too for getting you and you’re not grateful, but that is just one controversial aspect of your story. Do you think that somehow this — your rescue was manipulated by the government in order to sort of gin up support for this war?”

Lynch: “In a way. I mean, I think it gave troops that was over there, you know, hope that ‘Yeah, there’s still a worth fighting for.’ But...”

Couric: “What how does it make you feel? Do you feel comfortable, or uncomfortable with that?”

Lynch: “I was a little uncomfortable at first, you know, not knowing why they taped it or, you know, what was going on. But now, you know, it’s like ‘OK, well, you know, they saved me, they rescued me. I don’t care if they taped it or not.’ You know, they came in and rescued me. They’re my heroes.”

Couric: “There’s an Iraqi lawyer named...”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “... Mohammed al-Rahaief, and he claims that he told you that he was going to get help for you when you were in the hospital. He also says he alerted authorities about your whereabouts. So he was able to be a critical conduit between the hospital and the U.S. troops who ultimately saved your life. Do you feel like you owe him your life? Do you feel as if he saved your life?”

Lynch: “I am so grateful for him, you know, that he went out and got help. You know, for whatever he possibly did to rescue me, to get troops in there, you know, I’m just so thankful and so grateful for him.”

Couric: “Have you ever had a chance to meet him or talk with him or thank him personally?”

Lynch: “No, not yet. I want to do it on my own time whenever, you know, there’s no media around to just privately, you know, thank him.”

Couric: “Let’s talk a little bit more about some of the controversy in the early-early stages of your story. As you well know, there were a lot of newspaper accounts — and, Rick, I’m sure you had to wade through all this — that basically said you continued firing at the Iraqis even after you sustained multiple gunshot wounds, that you were fighting to the death, that you were stabbed, even shot, that you tried to fire your weapon but your gun jammed.All of this, this description of you as somebody who was fighting to her death, it was completely not true?”

Lynch: “No, none of it.”

Couric: “You never fired your weapon.”

Lynch: “No, my weapon jammed and I’m not about to take credit for something someone else, you know, heroically did. I’m not about to take credit for that.”

Couric: “Well, how do you think it happened? Why was there so much confusion?”

Lynch: “I don’t know.”

Couric: “Again, critics have said that you’re — they were — basically the military was using you because they needed a fresh, inspiring face to encourage support of the war.”

Bragg:“Which she has absolutely no control over.”

Lynch: “Exactly.”

Couric: “Do you think that’s what happened?”

Bragg: “I think what happens is in the rush to get it told — the war needed some good news.”

Lynch: “Yeah, that’s true.”

Bragg: “And, you know, at that point in the war I think that the country needed some good news. And the images of Jessie as a kind of an Annie Oakley two-gun hero were perfect for that. And...”

Couric: “Does that make you angry, though? Do you feel used?”

Lynch: “I did at first because they weren’t correcting it. You know, they were letting the stories go on and on and no one was saying anything about it. And, you know, I was in the hospital. So yeah, in a way. But in another way it made me feel proud that I was the reason that, you know, these soldiers were having hope to fight, to go on.”

Couric: “You say you’re not a hero...”

Lynch: “No.”

Couric: “’re a survivor.”

Lynch: “Exactly.”

Couric: “But, Rick, you think Jessica Lynch is a hero.”

Bragg: “Yeah, we’ve argued about this, too, a lot. But, you know, I’ve said this before, I think that every soldier there, every sergeant with two children at home, every soldier like Lori Piestewa who have the guts to crawl into the cab of a truck and go into a war while the rest of us sit at home watching it on the news, I think they’re heroes. I think they have to be. And I don’t — obviously, there are soldiers who were the dramatic hero, though, the ones who attack mortar positions and more of what we think of as the pure American hero, but I think it takes a certain amount of heroism to just go.

Couric: “And survive.”

Bragg: “Yeah.”

Bragg: “And with Jessie — Jessie fought to save herself at one point with just the muscles of her neck trying to keep, you know, them from taking her leg. She lasted in a harsh and terrifying place. But more than anything, the reason I think she’s a hero, and I’ll go ahead and talk about you like you’re not here...”

Couric: “OK.”

Bragg: “...but the reason I think she’s a hero is because she got in the truck, you know?”

Couric: “And she went...”

Bragg: “She went...”

Couric: “Rick Bragg.”

Bragg: “And she — you know, she went. And I think that’s worth everything.”

Couric: “Rick Bragg and Jessie Lynch, Jessica Lynch, I’m not sure which you prefer.”

Lynch: “Whichever.”

Couric: “... it’s great to have you both. I know you’ll be coming back tomorrow...”

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “...and talking with me along with your family, so I look forward to that. Again, thank you both so much. And the book is, “I Am a Soldier, Too.””

Lynch: “Mm-hmm.”

Couric: “And...”

Lynch: “Thank you.”

Couric: “We appreciate it.”