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One family joyous as others still wait

©Associated Press

April 3, 2003

PALESTINE, W.Va. -- The family of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch received an eagerly anticipated telephone call Wednesday evening from their daughter, hospitalized in Germany one day after being rescued from an Iraqi hospital.

Lynch's father, Greg Lynch Sr., said his eldest daughter was in good spirits despite extreme hunger. Angel Joy, Lynch's cousin, said the 19-year-old Army supply clerk suffered from two broken legs and a broken right arm.

Lynch also is believed to have at least one gunshot wound.

During the 10-minute conversation, Lynch sounded groggy as she said she hadn't eaten in eight days, her father said.

A military transport plane carrying Lynch arrived at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Wednesday evening. Lynch was taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southwestern Germany for treatment.

Lynch's father said that since his daughter is expected to be transferred to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington "as soon as possible" after surgery, the family will not go to Germany.

"As soon as she's capable, we're planning one heck of a big shindig," he said earlier Wednesday.

The family expects another call from her this morning.

About 80 residents gathered at a church in nearly Elizabeth on Wednesday night to celebrate Lynch's rescue. They sang hymns and America the Beautiful and praised Lynch's recovery as a miracle.

The community pledged to raise money to send Lynch to Hawaii.

As Lynch's family celebrated, relatives of soldiers missing from the 507th Maintenance Company spent Wednesday fearing the worst after learning that 11 bodies -- some of them believed to be Americans -- had been found during the rescue mission.

"With every day that passes, it just gets worse," said Amalia Estrella-Soto, mother of 18-year-old Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto of El Paso. "It's another day without knowing anything."

Her son and Lynch were among 15 soldiers of the 507th who were attacked March 23 near Nasiriyah.

The Defense Department said two were killed and Lynch was one of eight who were missing. Another five are listed as prisoners of war.

"We can't live like this. This is not living -- waiting, not knowing," Amalia Estrella-Soto, 42, told the Associated Press in Spanish, her voice trembling.

Some relatives hoped Lynch's discovery would at least lead to more information about her fellow soldiers.

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

"I'm glad they rescued her. She's only 19. That poor baby," said Janie Kiehl, mother of missing Spc. James Kiehl, 22, of Comfort, Texas. ". . . I'm hoping they found some other news too, and that maybe she knows something."

Norman Walters, father of missing Sgt. Donald Ralph Walters of Salem, Ore., said that his 33-year-old son has a strong spirit and that he knows somehow that his son is still alive. "I just have that feeling," he said.

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