Fifteen years after she was ambushed during the start of the Iraq War, former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch is fulfilling a dream as a teacher.
"I love being able to be a teacher," she said. "All the kids here know me."
In 2003, Lynch was a fresh-faced 19-year-old Army private serving as a unit supply specialist with the 507th Maintenance Company during the start of the Iraq war. Her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces on March 23, 2003, during the Battle of Nasiriyah.
She was knocked unconscious and taken to an Iraqi hospital. When she woke, she couldn’t move. Her legs were fractured.
"Just lying there, being 19 years old, a female, I was scared. I didn't know what to expect," she said. “I was afraid to sleep, afraid they'd kill me."
All of America watched as U.S. Special Forces conducted a daring mission to rescue her nine days later, on April 1.
“One of them looked at me and he pulled the American flag off his uniform and placed in my hand [and said], 'We're American soldiers. We're here to take you home,'" she recalled.
Lynch received a hero's welcome when she returned home to West Virginia.
Now, more than a decade later, she is still recovering from her wounds.
She had to learn how to walk again and still bears scars — both physical and mental. She says she still has nightmares about what happened.
Her biography, I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg, sits prominently in her school's library. Sometimes she reads it to her class.
She hopes that part of her experiences can serve as a life lesson to pass down to her students.
“Perseverance can get you through any obstacle, any struggled, any fear," she said. “Persevere. Never give up. Never give up.”
Lynch says she doesn't view herself as a hero. She also works as a motivational speaker and has a new book coming out later this year about leadership and team-building.
For more information about Jessica Lynch, visit her website.