Cover image for I am a soldier, too : the Jessica Lynch story
I am a soldier, too : the Jessica Lynch story
Bragg, Rick.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 207 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
"As told by Lynch herself"--Dust jacket.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.8 8.0 80005.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Angola Public Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Clarence Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Concord Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
East Delavan Branch Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Eden Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Grand Island Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Lake Shore Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Marilla Free Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Orchard Park Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Williamsville Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library DS79.76 .B73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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"I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story is the story this country has hungered for, as told by Jessica Lynch herself to 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. More than this, the collaboration between Lynch and Bragg captures who she is and where she's from: her childhood in Palestine, West Virginia, a lovely, rugged stretch of land always referred to as the hollow, where she rode horses, played softball, and was crowned Miss Congeniality at the Wirt County Fair the same year the steer she raised took a ribbon. It reveals her relationships with her older brother, Greg Jr., also an enlisted soldier, and her younger sister, Brandi; with her father, Greg Sr., a forty-three-year-old truck driver who has at times worked construction, cut hay, cut firewood, hauled timber, hauled concrete, run a bulldozer, run a backhoe, cleaned houses, and dug graves; and with her mother, Deadra, a city girl from Parkersburg who moved to the hollow and met her future husband when he was eleven and she was nine. And it describes what happened to the Lynch family in the agony of Jessica's capture and captivity; the terror and disbelief that cascaded through an entire town at the news of her disappearance into enemy hands; the joy of her rescue; and the long work of healing and recovery that lie ahead. Jessica Lynch has won the hearts and minds of Americans. In the hands of Rick Bragg, a renowned chronicler of American lives, her tale is told at last."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Author Notes

Rick Bragg was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1996. A national correspondent for the "New York Times", he lives in Miami, Florida.

(Bowker Author Biography)



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 Princess 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. Continued... Excerpted from I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story by Rick Bragg All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Herop. 3
1 The Deadliest Dayp. 7
2 Princessp. 14
3 Last Chances, and a Chance at Warp. 30
4 Bootp. 36
5 Lorip. 48
6 Rubenp. 56
7 Lostp. 60
8 Takenp. 70
9 Damagedp. 79
10 M.I.A.p. 82
11 Time Standing Stillp. 85
12 Woundsp. 95
13 The Enemy?p. 97
14 Hopep. 105
15 Saddam Generalp. 110
16 A Blonde Captivep. 121
17 Travelsp. 128
18 A Soldier, Toop. 129
19 Under the Sandp. 133
20 Miraclep. 135
21 Love Lettersp. 145
22 "Come Get Me"p. 147
23 Heroes Everywherep. 152
24 Not Knowing Who to Hatep. 162
25 Changesp. 174
26 Barn Raisingp. 181
27 Homep. 187
28 Normal?p. 197
29 The Long Shadow of Jessica Lynchp. 202
Acknowledgmentsp. 205

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