I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story

I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story

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by Rick Bragg

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Rick Bragg lends his remarkable narrative skills to the story of the most famous POW this country has known.

In I Am a Soldier, Too, Bragg lets Jessica Lynch tell the story of her capture in the Iraq War in her own words—not the sensationalized ones of the media's initial reports. Here…  See more details below


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Rick Bragg lends his remarkable narrative skills to the story of the most famous POW this country has known.

In I Am a Soldier, Too, Bragg lets Jessica Lynch tell the story of her capture in the Iraq War in her own words—not the sensationalized ones of the media's initial reports. Here we see how a humble rural upbringing leads to a stint in the military, one of the most exciting job options for a young person in Palestine, West Virginia. We see the real story behind the ambush in the Iraqi Desert that led to Lynch's capture. And we gain new perspective on her rescue from an Iraqi hospital where she had been receiving care. Here Lynch’s true heroism and above all, modesty, is allowed to emerge, as we're shown how she managed her physical recovery from her debilitating wounds and contended with the misinformation—both deliberate and unintended—surrounding her highly publicized rescue. In the end, what we see is a uniquely American story of courage and true heroism.

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Editorial Reviews

Former POW and media darling Private Jessica Lynch recounts to award-winning journalist Rick Bragg the terrifying tale of her capture, imprisonment, and rescue in Iraq and the impact of her ordeal on her close-knit, loving family in rural West Virginia.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Chapter One
The Deadliest Day

SOUTHERN IRAQ -- March 2003

The recruiter said she would travel. Now, twenty months after enlistment, nineteen-year-old Private First Class Jessica Lynch steered her groaning diesel truck across a hateful landscape of grating sand and sucking mud, hauling four hundred gallons of water in the rough direction of Baghdad on a mission that just felt bad. Back home, boys with tears in their eyes had offered to marry her, to build her a brand-new house, anything, to get her to stay forever in the high, green lonesome. She told them no, told them she was going to see the world.

But the recruiter had not told any lies. He offered her a way to make some money for college, so that, when this hitch was over, she could become the kindergarten teacher she wanted to be. And he offered a way to escape the inertia of the West Virginia hills, a place so beautiful that a young person can forget, sometimes until she is very old, that she is standing still. In the process, she would serve her country, something people in her part of America still say without worrying that someone will roll his eyes.

She bought it. They all had, pretty much: all the soldiers around her, the sons and daughters of endangered blue-collar workers, immigrant families and single mothers-a United States Army borrowed from tract houses, brick ranchers and back roads. The not-quite beneficiaries of trickle-down economics, they had traded uncertain futures for dead-certain paychecks and a place in the adventure that they had heard their ancestors talk of as they'd twisted wrenches, pounded IBM Selectrics and packed lunches for the plants that closed their doors before the next generation could build a life from them.

The military never closed its doors, and service was passed down like a gold pocket watch. Sometimes it was a good safe bet, all beer gardens and G.I. Bills, and sometimes it was snake eyes, and the soldiers found themselves at a Chosin Reservoir, or a Hue, or on a wrong turn to An Nasiriyah.

As the convoy of big diesels waddled across the sand, the world she saw was flat, dull and yellow-brown, except where the water had turned the dust to reddish paste. She got excited when she saw a tree. Trees made sense. She had grown up in the woods, where solid walls of hardwood had sunk roots deep into the hillsides and kept the ground pulled tight, as it should be, to the planet. All this empty space and loose, shifting sand unsettled her mind and made her feel lost, long before she found out it was true.

She was afraid. The big trucks had been breaking down since they left the base in Kuwait, giving in to the grit that ate at the moving parts or bogging down in the mud and sand like wallowing cows. Her convoy, part of the 507th Maintenance Company deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas, was at the tail end of a massive supply line that stretched from the Kuwaiti border through southern Iraq, a caravan loaded with food, fuel, water, spare parts and toilet paper. Her convoy followed the route that had already been rutted or churned up by the columns ahead, and every time a five-ton truck hit a soft place and bottomed out, the thirty-three vehicles in Jessica's convoy dropped farther behind.

Jessica just remembers a foreboding, a feeling that the convoy was staggering into enemy country without purpose or direction. Two days into the mission, the convoy had dropped so far behind that it had lost radio contact with the rest of the column. One of the far-ahead convoys carried her boyfriend, Sergeant Ruben Contreras, who had promised he would look after her. The day they left Kuwait, his column had pulled out just ahead of hers-in plain view. Now he had vanished in the distance along with the rest.

The convoy shrank every day as the heavy trucks just sank into the sand and came apart. In just two days, the thirty-three vehicles in the convoy had dwindled to eighteen, and two of them were being towed by wreckers. One day, it took five hours to lurch just nine miles. To make up that distance and time, the soldiers in the 507th slept little or not at all. They were cooks, clerks and mechanics, none of them tested in combat. They became bone weary and sleepwalked through the days.

Jessica began to wonder, if her truck broke down, would anyone even notice her at the side of the road? There was a lot to be afraid of here. But that was what she was most afraid of, whether it was reasonable or not. She was afraid of being left behind.

"I hoped that someone would see me, that someone would pick me up," she said. "Someone would stop. But you didn't know it. You didn't know."

Everyone knew what Saddam's soldiers did to women captives. In her worst nightmares, she stood alone in that desert as the trucks of her own army pulled away. In her mind, which she struggled to keep clear as the days and nights faded together, she could see the Iraqis rise up out of the sand to come and get her.

"I didn't want to be left out there. I didn't want to be left out there on my own. Even though stuff didn't look right with the convoy, it was better than being alone."

It was not a paralyzing fear, nothing that stopped her from doing her duty. It was simple dread.

Three days into their mission, as she rode with a sergeant, the transfer case in her five-ton truck "just busted"-and they were stranded. As if in her finely tailored nightmare, the big trucks did just grind past. Not all of them had working radios, only orders to push ahead, to make up the lost time. For a few bleak heartbeats, it looked as if her little-girl's fear was real. Then a Humvee swerved off the road, and the driver beckoned to her. "Get in." It was PFC Lori Ann Piestewa, her best friend. The sergeant hopped in another truck, and they rolled on.

A Hopi from Arizona who had been Jessica's roommate at Fort Bliss, Lori was recovering from an injured shoulder and had been given the choice of whether or not to deploy with her unit to Iraq. She went because Jessi did. A twenty-three-year-old mother of two, PFC Piestewa knew that her roommate was nervous, and she did not want her to face the desert, and war, on her own. "She stopped," said Jessica. "She picked me up. I love her."


Far ahead, Sergeant Ruben Contreras sat in his truck as it rolled across the sands, cloaked in the sense of invincibility that a machine gun tends to lend. He was twenty-three, hopelessly in love with a five-foot-three, hundred-pound waif from a little bitty place called Palestine, West Virginia, and sick with worry. He was supposed to eyeball the road, to sweep the horizon for signs of trouble, but his thoughts were tugged back along the ruts his unit had cut in the sand.

Where was she?

At least, if everything went according to plan, there was a big, big army between his girlfriend and danger. If everything went according to plan, a shooting fight along the assigned route was unlikely for the supply line soldiers who were purposefully skirting trouble spots, including heavily defended Nasiriyah.

"If there was any comfort, it was knowing that anything that was gonna harm her was gonna have to come through me first," he said. Rumbling over the sand, the convoys had seemed like an endless train, bound for the same place, bound together.

Jessi's convoy would be fine, he tried to convince himself. The only way it could come to real harm would be if it got lost, if the officer in charge wandered off course and into the hornet's nest of fighters loyal to Saddam who still controlled the cities and towns like Nasiriyah. Such a thing could never happen.


It was not a wrong turn, merely a missed one.

The little convoy of stragglers rolled into Nasiriyah in the early morning of March 23-right downtown.

The army, which usually does not use such colorful language in its reports, would later describe what happened next as "a torrent of fire."


When Jessica thinks about it now, she closes her eyes.

"They were blowing us up."

The Iraqis fired point-blank into the trucks with rocket-propelled grenades, shattering metal and glass, shredding tires. Soldiers leapt from them and were shot down by Iraqis with

AK-47 assault rifles who swarmed across rooftops and leaned from windows. A tank rattled up, its cannon tracking toward the trucks that growled and swerved through the dust and smoke, but the convoy was already in ruins. Some U.S. soldiers raced to cover and fought back; others clawed frantically at M16s that had jammed from the grime. Inside the Humvee with Lori, a sergeant and two other soldiers, Jessica watched bullets punch through the windshield, and she lowered her head to her knees, shut her eyes and began to pray.


It was a slow Sunday, winding down from a slow Saturday, in Palestine, West Virginia. Cody, the old dog that had never been quite the same after being shot by a hunter some years before, played dead on the front porch. Inside the white A-frame house that had been built on a foundation of hundred-year-old logs, Deadra and Greg Lynch, Jessi's parents, watched the television news. In the afternoon, CNN said a maintenance convoy had been ambushed. The network showed a video image of a truck, its doors blown away, blood running down its side. CNN said it was the 507th, and Greg told Dee not to panic, even as something like an icepick gouged at his chest. But people here have sat up late with a lot of wars, and they know that the army usually tells bad news in person. As darkness dropped on the hollow, the only visitors were friends and kin, as word spread as if by magic through the trees that one of their own was in peril.

About 11:15 p.m., a friend called from the door, "There's a trooper car comin'."

A state trooper and another man, in an army uniform, got out of the car and walked up the drive.

Dee screamed.

Like her daughter, she just wanted to hide, to make it go away.

So she just ran, as fast as she could, barefoot on the cold rocks, into the dark.

Chapter Two

Her bangs were always perfect.

Radiant in her burgundy form-hugging gown, she was crowned Miss Congeniality at the 2000 Wirt County Fair. Even the steer she raised took a ribbon that year, a good year, her last at Wirt County High. Her sister and brother called her, with only a little meanness, the princess, and she reigned over a mountain landscape that reached all the way from Singing Hills to Reedy Creek. Here, she learned to drive on roads that twisted like a snake on fire, guiding her mom's Toyota 4¥4 pickup through places like Mingo Bottom, Lucille, Blue Goose and Folly Run, past plywood placards that offered molasses for eight dollars a quart and church marquees that promised everlasting life. In time, it all became so familiar that she barely saw it anymore, barely noticed the letters painted on century-old barns and roadside signs that begged passersby to remember rod with love, or chew mail pouch tobacco, or the puzzling pinch yorself-if you feel it, it ain't jesus. It is the place where she walked a swinging bridge to see her late great-grandpa, where she played popgun soldier in the deep woods with her baby sister and her older brother, who chewed the feet off her Barbie dolls. This is where she broke her arm on the playground slide, and broke David Huber's second-grade heart, where she crashed into the right field fence after fly balls, dove onto the hardwood gym floor after loose balls, then got up and adjusted her socks.

Her kin believe she is alive, in part, because she is from this place, because she has the right blood in her. They know that doctors in three countries brought her back from near-death, that soldiers rescued her as her wounds festered, that millions prayed. Still, even though she is small and a little prissy, she carries the blood of the mountains-the blood of people who fought and worked and loved here. Even if it is not a thing that anyone can prove, it makes people glad to believe it. If that is a bad thing, then what are legends for ?


Her family has lived here for going on two centuries now, farming the bottomland and raising cattle and horses, or working factory jobs in the small industrial cities that dot the mountains just east of the Ohio River. Like most people here, her people do not see themselves as Southern or Northern, just By God West Virginian-in a state so conflicted during the Civil War that sometimes nothing more than a wooden fence divided sympathies, and brothers really did kill brothers. It is still a land of feuds, where people wait a month, or a lifetime, to settle a grudge over a stolen can of gasoline or a wounded dog.

The passing decades stitched power lines across the ridges and laid asphalt roads through the bottomland, where the acres are dotted with white farmhouses, fat cows and round hay bales. Every hollow seems to have a little wooden house built snug against walls of rock and trees. But there are still long stretches here where the thin roads seem merely temporary, a playground for the sleek does that bound light as air from ditch to ditch and the arrogant beavers and fat groundhogs that waddle across the blacktop like they own it, then crash off into the weeds with the grace of bowling balls.

At night, the trees and the up-and-down landscape drape black curtains over the hollows and make the houses seem even more isolated than they are. After supper the men stand on the porches with cups of coffee in their hands and joke about haunts and noises in the dark, and it is easy to imagine that the creak of pine limbs in the wind is really the squeak of saddle leather from some long-dead but restless rebel patrol.

Here, they never stopped praying in schools, and eleven-year-old boys who feel the call stand up in front of congregations in the white clapboard churches and order them to drop down hard on wall-to-wall carpet and be saved. People still fast here-as sacrifice, as proof of faith-when a friend or relative is sick or in trouble, and women who go to the hospital for surgery come home to find tables crowded with covered dishes and their laundry washed, pressed and stacked. There is no such thing as babysitting, but people offer to "keep your kids." Almost every driveway has a pickup, and every toolshed has a chain saw. Without a chain saw, the ice storms-which come almost every year-would maroon the little houses. Men cut for days at a maze of slick, glittering toppled trees to clear a driveway or a mile of road. Snow they can handle, but they hate the ice.


From the Hardcover edition.

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I Am a Soldier, Too 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First off, one must have been in the military to gauge a military book. I can say I have been. Secondly, it does a little more justice that I am a woman. A woman who served 4 honorable years, had my heartaches, but always believed in the red white and blue. Somewhere Jessica forgot that no human, regardless of race creed sex or religion enlists in the service without a few truths. First, they love their country and want to serve her. Secondly, soldiers, sailors Airmen and Marines have DIED and will continue to die for freedom. Third, there are still over 3 thousand MIAs from a little war the public tried to sweep under the table called Vietnam. Some might have passed on, some might be brainwashed and still alive...but when they were asked for their unit's movements and allied secrets...they said nothing, except for the laws of conduct. I am a military fighting person, I serve in the armed forces that protect our country and our way of life, I AM PREPARED TO GIVE MY LIFE FOR THAT CAUSE. (sorry it's not exact but it's been awhile) TO say 'I didn't support the US in iraq' and a few other choice sentences let's me know, as the press has shown, that it was a poor girl who wanted to get free school to become a teacher. THAT IS NOT A STORY. There are still strong men and woman overseas following the code of conduct who will either re-enlist or come out and be shell shocked as to what the country thinks of a hero to be. America should not boycott Jessica, but the author and the publisher who decided the all mighty dollar was the most important issue they needed to face. In full, A ghost written memoir that I will give to the salvation army.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok book good read. Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
61Mack More than 1 year ago
I really like this book. I do wonder why when we have a true hero soemone somewhere has to bash the military. It is subbtle but it is there.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about Jessica Lynch.A soldier in the 507th Division that was ambushed in Nasiryah ,Iraq.This book is very suspenceful and it will leave you hanging on to your seat. As you get further in the book you will understand what she and her familywent through. Jessica Lynch was a Prisoner of war(POW)during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2001. I think this book is excellant. It is very compelling.You will understand what life in Iraq was like during the war and Saddam's reighn of terror.You will also learn about the Fedahin terrorist and what they did.This book will tell you how sick these people were.This book really touched me.This book is dramatic, a little funny, and very suspenceful. I couldn't stop reading until I was through with the book. You should definatly read this book.I promise you will enjoy it. When you finish it you will feel a little bit taller.This book makes you think.It really opens your eyes and mind to reality.What they did to woman if they captured them disgusted me and definatly opened my eyes to what life was like in Iraq during the war,It will do the same to you as well.This is a five star book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The premise that Lynch was raped and tortured has to be fabricated in this book when Lynch does not remember that night nor does she know what happened in the hospital facility. And doctors don't even back up the claim that she was raped that night. How can the publisher claim, and I quote: '[This] is the story this country has hungered for, as told by Lynch herself to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg. In it, she tells what really happened in the ambush; what really happened in the hospital; what really happened, from her perspective, on the night of the rescue.' The hunger is TO MAKE MONEY that will fill Bragg's pockets, as well as Knopf's purse--there is no doubt it's Lynch who's getting raped by sensationist journalism on the behalf of Bragg. Shame on you KNOPF and BRAGG for trying to exploit her experience and manipulate readers into something fabricated by a journalist who's already been sacked at the New York Times for concocting false premises. This reeks of get rich quick schemes that rides on the coat tails of patriotism.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My compliments for Jessica Lynch, whose story sounds very honest. It really takes bravery to tell such an unglamorous and unheroic tale, while pressures and temptations to become a propaganda-hero are all around. Keep it up that way, Jessica, and many thanks for your book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Jessica Lynch story is a very heartwarming story. Sad I suppose but great for this country. It would be a waste of time to people who all they do is sit around and watch the news allday because in their mind its nothing different from what they saw on tv. It is different though in less you have watched the movie the story is a lot more detailed then what you and I read in the tabloids or watch on tv. This young girl who is the age on some of your daughters gave her life for our country. She didn't know if she would come out alive, dead, or badly injured. But I have to say I think she did her part in this war. She had her friend die that is enough to see for a young girl. And those words that came out of her mouth 'I'm a soldier too' are the words of a pround american.
Guest More than 1 year ago
She didn't ask for any fame, but regardless of the circumstances Jessica Lynch is a message of hope and courage. Her family and friends all represent what is right with America.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Contends are nothing new same as past TV news or newspaper articles. Lot of made up fiction without real facts. Not very interesting story just a country girl growing up in WV. There are many stories like this one out there...
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book, I was a bit skeptical about it. About half of the biographies that I've read turn out to be like reading a textbook. Completely uninteresting with only a few good page-turning parts. This book fortunately is not one of those old 'textbooks'. The first page starts out in Iraq. Now, I'm not saying that Jessica's family life doesn't matter, but honestly, most people didn't purchase this book to read about her family and the history of where she grew up, they bought it to read about her experience as a POW. This book is very interesting and I learned alot about Iraq, the military of the United States and about Jessica's experiences. It was really one of those books that opened my eyes to the very different ways of the military. It's definitely worth your money!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's amazing that anyone would write a book based on this story, except to make money. Jessica admits to absolutely no recall for the most important part of the story....anyone who goes into a war is a hero, but this story is weak.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As the daughter of a soldier in the United States Army, I was extremely offended by the account rendered in this book. We all know what a pity it was that this young woman was put through this trying time, but it is in no way fair to hold her above all those others that have died, been injured, maimed, or worse, for their country. She got to come home, the men who died in Somalia in 1993, did not. The other 11 casualties from her company went home in boxes. She has the nerve to say that her rescue was overdramaticized and she never wanted to be a part of something that supported the war in Iraq. I think she is suffering from an acute case of Wesley Clark-itis: one moment supporting the US Military, and then the next, defaming and slandering it to gain personal recognition. People are now calling her a hero and a victim of the Bush administration. She is no hero, heroes do not seek credit to their name, nor pity--her ordeal is a sad one, but not a new one. She was a clerk in a Maintenance Company that took a wrong turn, and instead of focusing thanks and praise on a military that make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the right of ungrateful Americans to slander them, she did what every Liberal in America wanted--retired from the Army and made herself appear robbed by the Bush Administration. Amazing how it happened after medals were awarded and honors given--Wesley Clark anyone? Maybe she'll be a guest speaker on his campaign trail, since lies are all the democrats seem to be able to muster now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I haven't read the book I'll go ahead and give it 5 stars. If it's anything like the other books he's written it'll be a best seller. My brother, who is never emotional, borrowed my book, All Over But The Shoutin' and when he returned it he said, 'It made me cry.' I understood completely. He could have been writing about my father, an old country boy from Alabama who drank, but wouldn't tell a lie if someone threatened his life. He was a gentleman in every way. I miss him and when I read anything Rick Bragg has to say about life in the South I feel like I can see my father again in the pages of his books. Jessica and her family sure made a great choice in writers to tell her story. She won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
stunning abostultey stunning this book has furthered my dream and desire to start my future in the Military perfect for everyone just perfect
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book, I enjoyed reading about her life growing up in her small town and her surroundings as she grew up. The trip through Iraq and the attack of her convoy were descriptive and very powerful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a great story of inspiration for the united states military. it proves that there can be miricles in war. read the book and see what you think