Pfc. Jessica Lynch's Family Celebrates Her Rescue

Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch's family rejoiced with tears and hugs at word of her rescue Tuesday, as family and friends packed their house in Palestine, W.Va., and cars and fire trucks paraded past blaring horns in celebration.

"There was much confusion and shouting at the house," Jessica's father, Greg Lynch Sr., told Fox News Wednesday morning. "The community and family members was great support for us."

"I thought this was a cruel joke. I can put up with most things, but not that," he earlier told The Associated Press. "They assured me, no, it's not a joke."

Lynch's family was told at about 6 p.m. Tuesday that the 19-year-old supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance Company had been rescued from an Iraqi hospital.

About 20 friends gathered for breakfast at Lynch's two-story, wood-framed house Wednesday to wait for word on Jessica's condition.

"They told us we would be receiving a call and we haven't got that yet," Lynch said. "We want to hear from her and know what condition she's in. Not knowing is the hardest part."

A photograph of the soldier was released showing her being carried on a stretcher.

Gregory Lynch Jr., Lynch's brother and a National Guard member, said hearing her voice "would bring up morale even more."

"She's doing well right now and that's all that matters," he said. "Hopefully in the next few days my mom and dad will get to talk to her."

Acting on a tip, U.S. special operations forces slipped behind enemy lines and seized Lynch from the Saddam Hospital, military officials said. They had to fight their way into and out of the building, but there were no coalition casualties, said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

"We're just real proud they risked their lives to go in and save our daughter," Lynch's father said. "We hope all the rest of the troops come home safely."

Asked what he would say to his daughter, he grinned and said: "That we love her and the little brat caused a big stir."

Lynch was treated for undisclosed injuries. She was being transferred Wednesday to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southwest Germany, said Heather Miller, spokeswoman for the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base.

Britain's Sky television quoted an Iraqi pharmacist who works at Saddam Hospital as saying he treated Lynch for leg injuries, but that she was she was otherwise healthy and "every day I saw her crying about wanting to go home."

Lynch was among 15 soldiers of the 507th Maintenance who were ambushed March 23 near Nasiriyah, a major crossing point on the Euphrates River northwest of Basra. The Defense Department said two were killed and Lynch was one of eight who were missing. Five members of the 507th were shown on Iraqi television as prisoners of war.

As news of the rescue spread across Wirt County, one of West Virginia's smallest, more than 70 friends and relatives gathered Tuesday night at the family's house in the farming community of Palestine, 70 miles north of Charleston.

"You would not believe the joys, cries, bawling, hugging, screaming, carrying on," said Pam Nicolais, a cousin of Lynch. "You just have to be here."

Several miles from Palestine, in the county seat of Elizabeth, residents threw their own celebration. An impromptu parade of cars and fire trucks wound through the town as people milled along the sidewalks and set off firecrackers.

"We're just a small community and we really rally around each other," said cousin Terri Edwards.

Eleven bodies -- at least some of them believed to be Americans -- were found at the hospital where Lynch was rescued, a military spokesman said Wednesday. The bodies had not been identified.

"It's terrible, tragic," Greg Lynch said of the bodies. "We don't want to ever see a tragic deal like this. It's something we're going to have to face. It's going to happen."

Last week, Greg Lynch said he expected that his daughter would be found and would return home to pursue her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher.

Lynch enlisted in high school in the Army's delayed entry program, as has her younger sister, Brandi, a high school senior.

"I didn't want to see her do it," Lynch's brother said of her enlistment. "She's way stronger than I am at the moment."

Gov. Bob Wise promised "one of the greatest homecomings this state has ever seen."

"God watched over Jessica and her family. All West Virginians are rejoicing," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Relatives of several other missing and captured members of the 507th said Tuesday night they had received no news, but some said Lynch's rescue renewed their optimism.

"It gives me hope," said Jack Dowdy, father of missing Master Sgt. Robert J. Dowdy, 38, of Cleveland. "I'm just sitting here hoping if they find one maybe they will find some more."

"I'm hoping they found some other news too, and that maybe she knows something," said Janie Kiehl, mother of missing Spc. James Kiehl, 22.

Before the war started, Lynch wrote to family friends Glenda and Don Nelson. The letter, dated March 18, arrived on Monday.

"She said she was ready to go to war and was just waiting on President Bush's word, but I could tell she was scared," said Don Nelson. "We bawled like babies when we read it. It tore us up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.