I’m Jessica Lynch and Here’s My Real Story
In April, I did something I never imagined I would need to do. I spoke before Congress about how the military creates myths exaggerating the heroics of its soldiers. It was a difficult choice—I knew I could be portrayed as unpatriotic, un-American or worse. But my reasons were personal, and profound. My capture and rescue in Iraq had been transformed into one of those myths.
There’s so much confusion about what happened to me. Here’s what I know: At the start of the war, in March 2003, my convoy was attacked in the city of An Nasiriyah. My Humvee crashed, and a few hours later I woke up behind enemy lines in an Iraqi hospital, badly injured and unable to move my legs. I was a prisoner of war.
Nobody likes to believe our military would mislead people—but they wanted a war hero so badly that they portrayed me as one. They didn’t get their facts straight before talking about what happened, and neither did the media. They said I went down guns blazing, like Rambo—but I never fired a shot, because my rifle had jammed. They later corrected the story, but I’m still paying the price. People write to me and say, “You don’t deserve all the attention.” I’ve received thousands of letters and calls like that. People think I lied or helped create the Rambo myth—that I wanted it.
But I’ve always told the truth. I could have chosen not to. It would have been so easy to say, “Yes, I did those things”— except I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. Honesty has always been very important to me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that this is my life and I have to stand up for myself.
I remember the first time I put on the Army uniform. I just felt like a totally different person—I felt proud. I knew I was doing something important for my country. I’d signed up after high school, in July 2001, so I could pay for college and see the world. My dream was to go to Hawaii.
I don’t come from a rich family—it’s not like we lived in a cardboard box, but we didn’t have a ton of money. I grew up in Palestine, West Virginia, which is mostly a farming community; there aren’t a lot of jobs. My older brother, Greg, joined the Army at the same time I did. We enlisted before September 11, and that’s important to note. Everyone’s life completely changed after that day. I started basic training in South Carolina a week after the attacks, and I was petrified. But there was no backing out.