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Lynch's rescue is welcome news

April 04, 2003|by BILL KOHLER

Man, we needed this.

Many thought finding Salt Lake City teen Elizabeth Smart alive and well was about as good as it gets in the good-news department.

Jesse Lynch matches the feeling.

While millions around the country celebrated the stunning news that Smart was found and quickly reunited with her family, the word of Pfc. Jessica Lynch being rescued could not have come at a better time.

The Smart story turned our attention from the pending conflict in Iraq. It warmed our hearts, made us believe in miracles (because face it, most of us thought she'd never be found - much less alive and in relatively good health) and made some of us go home and hug our loved ones a little harder.

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However, when war hit two weeks ago, the Smart story was bounced out of the media firestorm. It became old news in as much time as it takes a Patriot missile to reach its target 10 miles away.

We never did hear how Elizabeth survived the ordeal with her captors (except in the National Enquirer and Weekly World News, of course) or how she is handling her return to normal life.

With the exception of sports, it's been war, war, war 24/7. Literally, the war is being covered (quite well I might add) by newspapers, radio and TV around the clock.

We've read, heard and seen everything in this war, called Operation Iraqi Freedom. We've read about missiles, U.S. battleships, tanks, helicopters and hand-to-hand combat.

We've heard about battles in towns with names that even trained enunciators have trouble pronouncing.

Tragically, we've listened as reports came in about downed Blackhawks, friendly fire accidents and a growing list of casualties on both sides.

The bad news seemed to be piling up higher than the good, even as we appeared to be getting closer to the Bush administration's stated goal of reaching Baghdad and removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Also weighing heavily in the thoughts of many Americans were the prisoners of war, especially the 507th Maintenance Co. convoy that took a wrong turn in southern Iraq on March 23 and was ambushed by Iraqi soldiers.

Included in the company was a 19-year-old Army supply clerk named Jessica Lynch. We learned about her hometown, her family, her friends and her dreams, but little about her whereabouts.

Like the Elizabeth Smart case, we feared the worst.

Then came the best news of this conflict: Jessica was found - and amazingly, found alive.

Her rescue came at a time when America really needed a lift.

Even two days after the initial reports of her rescue, many are glued to TV and newspaper reports, wanting to hear more.

The more we learn about Lynch, the more we like her. We like her family, her spirit, her spunk. We even like her genuine naivet when she reportedly asked her brother if her story had made the local newspaper.

We also are drawn to Jesse because she put a real face on this war.

We all know Jesse ... or someone just like her. Smart, nice, determined, loyal, cute ... a small-town American woman. She joined the Army so she could someday be a kindergarten teacher in her hometown in Wirt County, W.Va. How could you not root for her?

This is a local war, fought by people we know, ordinary people from little towns like Palestine, W.Va., Mars, Pa., and Oldtown, Md. People like Jesse.

For or against the war, let's keep our troops in mind as they risk their lives. And as we think about Jesse's miraculous return, let's not forget those who didn't come back, or are still there.

For every Pfc. Jessica Lynch who will be reunited with her family, there's another one who won't.




Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 1-800-626-6397, ext. 2023, or by e-mail at billk@herald-mail.com.

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