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Lynch Released From Walter Reed, Receives Military Awards

Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2003 – Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the first of the rescued prisoners of war from Operation Iraqi Freedom, was discharged from Walter Reed Army Medical Center July 22, her 102nd day of care at the largest medical facility in the Department of Defense.

Lynch boarded a helicopter that lifted off at 10:31 a.m. for Elizabeth, W. Va., near her hometown of Palestine.

"I want to thank the whole medical team for taking care of me these past few months," Lynch said in a statement from Walter Reed. "I also thank all the well-wishers for all their cards, letters, banners and posters. These really raised my spirits and kept me going."

In the same statement, the Lynch family thanked Walter Reed's doctors, nurses and other health care providers for their daughter's treatment. "If it wasn't for them, Jessi wouldn't be where she is today. We're very grateful for all the top quality care they gave her."

The family also praised the Fisher House Foundation "for their hospitality and generosity in providing beautifully decorated rooms so we could be close to our daughter while she was treated in the medical center." The non-profit foundation provides free lodging for families of service members and veterans receiving care at military and VA medical facilities around the world.

Lynch, a 20-year-old Army supply clerk, was injured and captured March 23 after her unit, the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, was ambushed in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. She was rescued from a hospital in that city by U.S. forces several days later, reportedly after a tip from an Iraqi lawyer. She arrived at Walter Reed April 12 after receiving care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

On July 21 the Army awarded Lynch the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and POW medals. Lt. Gen. James B. Peake, Army surgeon general, presented the awards and spoke briefly to Lynch's family and members of the assembled "families" of Walter Reed, the Army Medical Department and others before presenting the awards.

He said the Purple Heart, "a special award and not one you choose to get," is awarded to a person who's given more to their country than just service "They have given of themselves by going into harm's way." He said other awards have to do with the quality of one's service.

"The Bronze Star is given for meritorious service in combat, and the POW medal is one that very few people receive," Peake said.

After receiving her awards, Lynch thanked the Walter Reed staff for the care she received at the medical center during the last three months.

Peake then recognized the Walter Reed staff for the care they've provided Lynch and other soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"We're proud of them and they're proud of you," Peake said to Lynch.

Walter Reed has treated approximately 655 patients from Operation Iraqi Freedom since the war began, 170 of them battle casualties. Of those, 125 have been treated as inpatients and 45 as outpatients. All but 26 have received discharges.

Other members of Lynch's unit who were injured and held captive following the March 23 ambush also received medals during an Independence Day ceremony at Fort Bliss, Texas.

(Based on Walter Reed press releases.)

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