Former POW Jessica Lynch Still Haunted from Iraq, but Survives by ‘Smiling Through the Pain’

Jessica Lynch Rescue

For many soldiers returning home from combat, it is not uncommon for them to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those who fought in Iraq could easily have a severe anxiety disorder after exposure to events that happened in Iraq and leading to some form of psychological trauma.

Now, ten years after her nightmare experiences in Iraq, soldier Jessica Lynch has persevered with her life and has become a motivational speaker, a mother and as a teacher. Though she is still haunted by what happened to her during her service, she has survived and adopted an attitude of moving forward with her life despite the pain of loss.

She said in a recent interview that “No matter how bad the pain is, smile. “Smile, and you just go on.”

Jessica Lynch became the first POW that ended up being rescued since the Vietnam War. Despite moving on with her life she says that she will never forget what she went through during her service in Iraq.

She appeared Monday on the “Today” show and talked about what it has been like for the 29-year-old. She said, “About every night I have some kind of dream where there’s someone chasing me. It’s hard. It really is mentally and physically draining. I’m very blessed and happy to be here, and I think that’s what counts the most, and if I tell myself that I’m OK, I eventually I start (thinking), ‘You know what? I can do this.'”

While Lynch is currently living in her hometown of Charleston, West Virginia with 6-year-old daughter Dakota, things were much different ten years ago when she ended up being rescued by U.S. Special Forces from an Iraqi hospital on April 1st, 2003. She not became a symbol for Americans who were fighting abroad but also made sure to set the record straight involving the firefight that ultimately led to her capture.

Though her expanded role seemed to become the stuff legends are made from, Lynch testified to Congress that what she did she had to in order to survive; not to be heroic. Survive is the key word as she has had 21 surgeries since the day she was rescued. She continued to say on the “Today” show that “I know that there was a lot of fabricated, misconstrued stories, but I did what I had to do. I came out and tried to tell the world what really happened. I set the record straight as much as I can and what people still want to believe or not believe, that’s on them, but I felt it was important to just let the truth be known.”

Her testimony came after the death of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman who was initially reported to have been killed as a result of enemy fire but later revealed that his death was a result of friendly fire. Lynch said that information surrounding her capture and rescue was misleading and confusing, so that information was investigated to see the circumstances that led to the death of Tillman.

She said, “That was difficult, sitting in front of Congress and saying, ‘You lied. You’re lying now. It was for the Tillman’s, not for me. I got to come home and tell my story. His story needed to be told.”

In fact, there are things that happened where Lynch is still trying to cope with, such as the fact that during the firefight she watched 11 members of her company die that included her best friend, Lori Piestewa.

Lynch told “Today” that “It’s so hard to continue every day knowing that Lori didn’t make it home with me. The reason that she went over there was to be with me and our other comrades, and sadly she didn’t get to come back home, so (I’m) just having to deal with the fact that my best friend didn’t get to come back and I did.” She added, “She had two beautiful kids. It’s just really hard to know they’re going to have to grow up without their mom.”

Even though she continues to have nightmares, Lynch continues to look towards the future and not become trapped in the past, such as working on her Master’s Degree as well as being engaged to Dakota’s father.

She said, “I’m kind of happy that we’re finally to this 10-year mark so that I can finally put Iraq in the past. I know that it will always be with me. It’s nice to make that mark of ‘I’ve made it this far.’ It’s always going to be with my life, waking up every day and dealing with the injuries. I go on and I strive and I do the best that I can.” She added that, “I don’t know where the future will take me. When the doors open, I’ll walk through.”

Jessica Lynch: I’m ‘blessed and happy to be here’

Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch reflects on the decade since her rescue in Iraq, saying she still has nightmares about her ordeal and revealing she feels “the most pride” about being a mother.

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