Private First Class Jessica Lynch was just 19 when she was ambushed, raped, and held hostage by Iraqi forces in 2003, and now the former POW is speaking out about the false stories that flooded the media after she was rescued nine days later.
Lynch, now 30, has moved on with her life: She has a 6-year-old daughter, Dakota; she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of West Virginia at Parkersburg in 2011; and she's working as a substitute teacher while taking classes toward a master's degree in communications.
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"I always like to set these small goals for myself, I like to have something to look forward to, and, I don't know — that's what gives me the drive and the ambition," she told ABC News' Bob Woodruff
this week in a special interview looking back on the 10 years that have passed since she was captured while serving with the Army in Iraq.
Lynch was rescued by U.S. Special Forces on April 1, 2003, nine days after she was taken hostage. She was honored with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and POW medals after her rescue, as media reports hailed her "heroics" for reportedly fighting back against her captors while injured.
But Lynch refuted those stories and accused politicians of exaggerating her rescue.
"I knew that, even 10 years later, I would not have been able to live with myself knowing that I let those stories escalate and I went along with what those other people were saying, because I knew in my heart that that's not really what happened," she told ABC News. "I felt in my heart that I wasn't the hero they were trying to make me out to be. I was a soldier that was injured and needed to be rescued."
Lynch said that she is reminded of her ordeal every single day because she still requires a brace on her injured leg.
"It's an everyday remembering. I mean I wake up, and I look at the injuries. Putting on the brace in the morning — you know all of that takes me back to that day," she said. "But I do. I wake up, I think to myself, 'you know what, I'm so lucky and blessed to have gotten to come home and rescued and made it out of there alive.'"
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