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Small U.S. Town Prepares for Rescued POW's Homecoming


Army private first class Jessica Lynch, rescued recently by U.S Special Operations Forces from her captivity in Iraq, is going home to West Virginia this weekend. VOA-TV’s Jeff Swicord just visited Palestine, West Virginia, and found a community inspired by and proud of their unlikely war hero.

NATURAL SOUND
“It’s going to the troops in Kuwait.”
“Oh good, just anyplace here?”

On the front lawn of the Wirt County Court House, people gather to sign banners honoring the troops and rescued American Jessica Lynch. Jack Horton is with a local radio station.

JACK HORTON
“We had planned to come to Wirt County to bring a banner here and when we heard that Jessica had been rescued. We had one made for the people of Wirt County as a way to express their feelings about the rescue. And of course it says, ‘Welcome home Jessi’ and allows the folks of Wirt County and the mid-Ohio Valley to sign their best wishes.”

Wirt County, West Virginia is the home of private first class Jessica Lynch. Her dramatic rescue by U.S. Special Forces touched the nation and cast a spotlight on this rural West Virginia community.

But, beyond the story of Jessica’s rise to national hero, there is the story of small town America, and the character of this community of just under 6,000 people.

The roadways are filled with signs from well wishers. And the modest Lynch family house nestled between these hills has been besieged by the world’s media.

On this day, the Lynchs’ are too exhausted to grant any interviews. But still, after the trauma of Jessica’s ordeal, their support for the country is unwavering.

Donna Boley is the state representative for Wirt County.

DONNA BOLEY
“We talked to Mr. Lynch and he’s just so supportive of his kids and the war and the president and that’s great!”

Pride in family, country, and the military runs deep in this community. There are currently 60 residents serving in active duty. Andrew Cheuvront is Sherrif of Wirt County.

ANDREW CHEUVRONT
“I heard the other day that they asked at school how many people had family members in the military and almost the whole student body stood up because one way or another, that’s how much the families are connected in here.”

This group of veterans has organized a pig roast to benefit the Lynch family. Mr. Lynch, a truck driver, has not worked since Jessica was reported missing.

Mike Stewart was in the Marines.

MIKE STEWART
“We thought that a, if he has to go out on the road to make his living. What father would not want to stay home until his soldier daughter got home, you know.

So, this was a lot done just to keep him home. Well, it turns out it’s going to be in a little excess but, what the heck, she is an American hero. And she’s from right here from West Virginia, so. ”

But not all of Wirt County’s prayers have been answered. The families in this community understand the risk and sacrifice involved with military service. And as the Lynchs left this peaceful hollow to board a jet to Germany to see Jessica, they and the residence of Wirt County were mindful that the fate of seven POWs is still unknown. Five of them are from Jessica’s unit.

Jeff Swicord, VOA-TV.

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