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Volume 68, Issue 132, Monday, April 14, 2003

Opinion
 

Lynch deserves highest honor

Tom Carpenter
Opinion Columnist

Many stories fill the bloody pages of American history about citizen-warriors whom fought for the American way of life and returned home heroes. 

The battlefield exploits of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch elevated the 19-year-old warrior into the pantheon of heroes that includes legendary warriors like Sgt. Calvin C. York from World War I and Audie Murphy from World War II.

Commander in Chief President George W. Bush should award the wounded and bed-ridden Lynch the nation's highest tribute, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for her service to her nation. 

Lynch became a symbol for everything that's right about America when she escaped the clutches of the Iraqi military with a little help from her friends. She is the citizen-warrior who planned to improve her life through education and made the necessary sacrifices to achieve her dream, and she didn't flinch when it came time to pay the ultimate price for that dream. 

America's side of the War on Terror lacked a face until now.

Lynch personifies the idealistic spirit that drives America and gives definition to why this nation confronts terrorism in all its forms. Her story, a small town kid joining the military to gain college benefits, is typical of thousands of American soldiers who became college graduates. 

But her ordinary story became an extraordinary epic after Iraqi forces ambushed her convoy March 23 and captured the young woman from Palestine, W.Va. as her Army buddies fell dead around her. 

A daring rescue by American commandos catapulted Lynch's story into the lofty realm of a legend. Her saga exploded across the world's stage for all to see.

Her tale, enhanced by the mysterious aid of an Iraqi man known only as Mohummad who risked his life to give Lynch's location to U.S. forces took the world by storm.

Her ordeal contains the same elements as the greatest stories ever written: bravery, virtue, sacrifice, war, betrayal, death, compassion, mercy, loyalty and ultimate triumph.

Information gleaned from a variety of sources indicates that the Army supply-clerk shot several attacking Iraqi soldiers after being hit by enemy fire. Lynch fired until she ran out of ammunition and was overwhelmed by the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. 

She suffered two broken legs, a broken arm and an undetermined number of gunshot wounds during the firefight, according to the hospital in Germany that treated her wounds.

The Washington Post quoted a military spokesman who said, "She was fighting to the death. She did not want to be taken alive."

Lynch, along with as many as 12 other members of the 507th Maintenance Company, became Iraqi POWs. Lynch alone survived the ordeal with the Iraqis. 

Like a 21st century Joan of Arc, Lynch, a fresh-faced, wholesome 19-year old from the Midwest arose from the carnage of an Iraqi battlefield and became a symbol of American virtue and sacrifice, wreathed in valor.

If the Wheaties manufacturers want a real champion on their box, they should flush the pictures of pampered millionaires who play kidsi games and replace them with pictures of real heroes like Lynch and her cohorts. 

And if pampered athletes can make millions from endorsements, Lynch should take the video game market by storm as she leads the American forces into cyber-battle while an entire generation learns her name and listens to her exploits.

And what better face can the Bush administration choose to represent America's War on Terror, than Pfc. Jessica Lynch, heroine without peer? 

I doubt if a single member of the American armed forces would complain if Lynch posed for the picture. In fact, I'd bet they'd insist that Lynch represent the sacrifices and tremendous efforts they make on their nation's behalf.

She is, after all, one of them, and every generation has its heroes.

With the ruins of the World Trade Center in the background, accompanied by the thunderous applause of millions of Americans, Bush should award his most valiant soldier, Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the Congressional Medal of Honor. She's earned it.

Carpenter, a college of education student, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.
 

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