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Hometown, family jubilant over the liberation of POW

©Associated Press

April 2, 2003

PALESTINE, W.Va. -- Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch's family rejoiced Tuesday at word of her rescue, more than a week after she and other members of her maintenance unit were captured in Iraq.

"They said it was going to be the biggest party this road had ever seen," Lynch's cousin Sherri McFee said as fire and police sirens blared in the background in celebration in Palestine. The family was notified about 7 p.m.

"Everybody was really worried, normal concerns and everything like that. But we all remained hopeful and knew she would be home," McFee said.

"It's a miracle," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "God watched over Jessica and her family. All West Virginians are rejoicing. . . . This is a testament to the amazing skill and courage of our military."

Lynch was among the soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company who were ambushed March 23 near Nasiriyah, a major crossing point over the Euphrates northwest of Basra. Five members of the 507th were shown on Iraqi television as prisoners being questioned, but Lynch was not one of those pictured.

The 19-year-old supply clerk is known for her smile and her laugh. Friends and family in Palestine, about 70 miles north of Charleston, call her Jesse. She's "every mother's dream of a teenage daughter," said Lorene Cumbridge, a cousin.

"She's just a West Virginia country girl. Warm-hearted. Outgoing," said Cumbridge, 62.

Lynch's goal is to be a teacher. But she joined the Army to get an education and because it was one of the few opportunities available in a farming community with an unemployment rate of 15 percent -- one of the highest in West Virginia.

Her older brother, Gregory, is a member of the National Guard and based in Fort Bragg, N.C. Jessica enlisted through the Army's delayed-entry program before graduating from Wirt County High School in Elizabeth, W.Va..

Before she left for the military, family friends Glenda and Don Nelson talked with her about the danger she would face.

"She said 'I've been trained and I'm ready to go,' " Don Nelson said.

"She's everyone's baby," he said. "She loved her country, too, and was ready to serve it. That is what my country wants, kids like her."

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