The chain of events that turned Jessica Lynch from an unknown PfC in the U.S. Army to a national celebrity began with a wrong turn.
On March 23, 2003, the convoy in which she was traveling headed into the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah instead of detouring around it, a navigational error that has never been fully explained. Just outside of the town, the convoy was ambushed by Iraqi troops. Lynch, a supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance company, was wounded and captured along with five other soldiers, and 11 were killed.
Despite initial reports that she had suffered bullet wounds, Lynch was eventually revealed to have suffered broken bones in her arm and foot and a dislocated ankle. She was taken to a hospital in Nasiriyah, where she was both treated and held captive.
Shortly afterward, an Iraqi doctor named Mohaammed Odeh al Rehaief told American forces where Lynch was being held, citing what he said was her harsh treatment at the hands of the military. (Lynch later denied this, saying she had been treated humanely).
On April 1, 2003, U.S. Army Special Forces raided the hospital (finding only medical personnel and no military opposition) and rescued Lynch. They also retrieved the bodies of eight other soldiers.
On April 2, the Pentagon released a video depicting the rescue and stating that Lynch had suffered stab and bullet wounds. She had been flown to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where surgeons operated on a slipped vertebrae and several other fractures and found no bullet wounds.
Whether or not Lynch was sexually molested during her captivity remains unclear. A biography written by Rick Bragg made that claim, but Lynch has denied it.
When she was released from the hospital and flown back to the United States, Lynch discovered that she had become an American hero. News reports said she had fought valiantly against her captors before captured, and she was awarded a Bronze Star, the Prisoner of War medal and a Purple Heart.
Later, when she began talking to the media, Lynch said her rifle had jammed and she was unable to fight back even if she had wanted to.
"I'm not about to take credit for something I didn't do," she told one interviewer. "I'm just a survivor."
Lynch later enrolled at the West Virginia University extension in Parkersburg. In January of 2007, she and longtime boyfriend Wes Robinson had a daughter who Lynch named "Dakota Ann" after her best friend in Iraq, Lori Piestawa, who died from injuries suffered in the ambush. She later helped build a new house for Piestawa's family in Tuba City, AZ with the help of the program "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Born April 26, 1983 in Palestine, W. VA, Lynch enlisted in the Army just before Sept. 11, 2101, and entered basic training at Fort Jackson, SC eight days after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked.