Published January 13, 2015
When Jessica Lynch (search) was a girl, she liked to tell her grandmother that some day she would be famous.
"She would say, 'Wirt County (search) will know Jessi Lynch,"' Wyonema Lynch said.
Lynch's name has spread a bit beyond the borders of her home county. The 20-year-old Army supply clerk's wounding, imprisonment and dramatic rescue in Iraq have seen to that.
On Tuesday, after almost four months of recuperation from multiple broken bones and other injuries and hospital stays in Iraq, Germany and Washington, Lynch is being welcomed back to the rolling green hills of West Virginia's smallest county.
"We are excited just to see her, just to be able to give her a hug," her grandmother said. "To Jessi, home is in the hills. She has been wanting to get here."
Lynch's 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed March 23 near the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah (search). Eleven soldiers were killed; five others were captured and held apart from Lynch for three weeks. U.S. forces recovered Lynch at a Nasiriyah hospital April 1.
Lynch and her parents were boarding a Black Hawk helicopter at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (search) in Washington at late morning for a flight to Elizabeth. A unit from the Parkersburg National Guard (search), which includes Lynch's cousin, Dan Little, was to bring her home.
Hundreds of journalists were in this 1,000-person county seat to report Lynch's first public words since her ordeal. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people are expected to line the route of the military motorcade that was taking her home.
Able to walk with the aid of a walker but still having trouble standing, Lynch was to make brief public remarks from a wheelchair in a town park.
Using 1,600 yards of donated lawn chair material, town workers have hung hundreds of yellow bows along the motorcade route from Elizabeth to her home in Palestine, a community of about 300 some five miles away.
Sue McCloy, of Parkersburg, planned to close the Hope Shop Thrift Store and Food Shop in Elizabeth to see the motorcade pass. She echoed many in expressing pride and joy in Lynch's return but concern about media attention that many feel is overblown.
"I have mixed emotions," McCloy said. "Jessica deserves everything she can get, but I feel sorry for her and her family."
"I just hope she can cope with everything that's going on around here," said Regina Ray, owner of Creative Gifts and Floral in Elizabeth. "You think you are coming home to normal, and this town is not normal."
Greg and Sheila Hodak, of Goldsberg, N.C., stopped Monday on their way to Pennsylvania to drive by Lynch's house.
"We just felt drawn to come by," Sheila Hodak said. "I would love to get a glimpse of her. Everybody felt like she was their adopted child."
On Monday, Lynch was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals. The Bronze Star is given for meritorious combat service, a Purple Heart is most often awarded to those wounded in combat, and the POW for being held captive during wartime.
Little, who has spoken twice with his cousin in the past week, said Lynch's spirits have been buoyed by her imminent homecoming.
"She's a strong, disciplined young lady," Little said. "Her injuries are long healing, and that can be hard if you dwell on it. But she's not allowed that to happen."