March 23, 2003: Private Jessica Lynch Captured by Iraqi Forces

Pfc. Jessica Lynch receives the Purple Heart from Lt. Gen. James B. Peake, U.S. Army surgeon general, during a ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on July 21, 2003. Lynch also received the Bronze Star and the Prisoner of War Medal.

On March 23, 2003, Private Jessica Lynch of Wirt County was captured by Iraqi forces. Soon, Lynch would be a household name throughout the nation.

Two years earlier, the 18 year old had joined the Army to earn money for college. Just days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces, and her Humvee was wrecked. Lynch was seriously injured and then captured.

Nine days later, she was rescued by U.S. forces during a dramatic nighttime raid—the first rescue of a female POW in American history. Lynch was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Prisoner of War medal.

Lynch couldn’t remember exactly what happened during the rescue, but the official details that emerged raised questions. Iraqi doctors claimed they had tried to hand over Lynch peacefully. Others alleged the military had staged the raid for publicity. Lynch later testified before Congress that “the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes, and they don’t need to be told elaborate lies.” Lynch left the Army, returned to West Virginia, and eventually graduated from WVU-Parkersburg.