Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the rescued prisoner of war, has recovered sufficiently from her injuries that she can sit in a chair for hours at a time and eat solid food, visiting family members said today, adding that they were relieved to find her health better than they had expected.
"Her spirits were real high and we were really glad to see her condition, because we were kind of thinking [it was] a lot worse," her father, Gregory Lynch Sr., said in the first news conference the family has given since being reunited with the wounded soldier on Sunday.
Lynch's family, from Palestine, W.Va., said she was not yet talking with them about her ordeal. She is only partially aware of the media sensation it has created in the United States.
Lynch is suffering multiple injuries after being captured March 23 near the city of Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq. The Iraqis held her for nine days before U.S. commandos rescued her from a hospital in a daring raid.
"We haven't talked too much about that at this time," her father said. "We're going to let Jessi have her feelings, so when she's ready to tell us something, she will."
Officials at the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where Lynch is being treated, said the 19-year-old Army supply clerk may have described some of the events to an Army psychologist or intelligence officers who have met with her. But they suggested that she may not remember much, and that the discussions are going slowly.
"People have different reactions to the repatriation process," said Marie Shaw, a hospital spokeswoman. "Some people talk immediately when they come back and others keep it all inside. . . . From what I have heard, I think she is one of those people who maybe does not remember."
Shaw added that Lynch may have been unconscious for periods during her captivity.
Lynch is in stable condition in a private room in intensive care after undergoing three operations. Her most serious injury involves a vertebra in her lower back. She also has fractures in four places: her upper right arm, upper left leg, lower left leg, and right ankle and foot.
The hospital said it wasn't clear how Lynch suffered the injuries. Gunshots from a low-velocity, small-caliber weapon may have caused one or more of them, but no bullets or metal fragments have been found.
The hospital expects that Lynch will be flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington at the end of the week to continue her recovery.
Lynch got out of bed and sat in a chair for four hours Monday and was sitting in a chair again today. For supper last night she ate her first solid food, picking one of her favorite menus of turkey, gravy, French fries and carrots.
The hospital, near the giant U.S. military airfield at Ramstein, in southwestern Germany, has received numerous gifts, flowers, letters and e-mails for the soldier from well-wishers. The gifts included two stuffed animals, a white rabbit and a teddy bear, which Lynch is keeping on her bed together with another teddy bear with a red-white-and-blue ribbon that her family brought from home.
The two people Lynch is seeing most are a female friend from home, whom the family declined to identify, and an Army psychologist, Lt. Col. Sally Harvey. The friend is staying at the hospital with Lynch, while the family is in a guesthouse nearby.
In addition to her father, the visiting relatives include her mother, Deadra; brother Gregory Jr., 21, a private first class stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.; sister Brandi, 18; and a cousin, Dan Little, 32, a first sergeant in the West Virginia National Guard. All are wearing yellow ribbons, in honor of POWs, missing soldiers and their families.
Lynch's brother said he wept during their first visit. "I had shed a few tears before, but it really hit me harder when I walked in that room. It hit the whole family," he said.
Gregory Lynch said his sister did not know much about the attention focused on her. "She's not reading a lot of magazines or watching the news. They've got her kind of isolated from that," he said. "We're kind of bringing her slowly up to where she needs to be, and we don't want to bring it up too fast for her.
"She wants to go home. That's the only thing she's been asking."