She became a household name 15 years ago. Her rescue by U.S. Special Forces in 2003 marked the first successful rescue of an American Prisoner of War since World War II. And, the first ever of a female soldier.
Now, Jessica Lynch sits down with 13 News Anchor Jennifer Abney to share how her West Virginia roots and lifelong friendships here in the Mountain State helped her to not only survive but thrive on her long road to recovery.
Seventeen years ago, these two women attended Wirt County High School in Elizabeth, West Virginia.
“Do you remember this,” asked Shana Clendenin? “I think it was spirit week.”
“Oh my gosh, I do,” answered Jessica Lynch.
Today they are catching up.
“What was your favorite memory of going to school together,” asked Jennifer Abney?
“Would it be lunch uptown,” asked Clendenin?
“Well yeah, that was great,” answered Lynch.
But this isn’t your typical high school reunion.
“I think because it was such a small school and that we were all so close, even the seniors knew all of the freshmen,” said Lynch. “There was no big school rivalry, we were so connected.”
“Everyone knew everyone,” added Clendenin.
“And, that can be a bad thing too,” Lynch said laughing.
But they could have never guessed the entire world would come to know one of them.
“I have not changed,” said Lynch. “I’m still just Jess from high school.”
“It’s amazing though, I remember the entire time you were gone,” Clendenin said. “I actually remember the day that it was announced that you were rescued.”
“I was with my grandpa, and he just started crying,” Clendenin added. “It was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen my grandpa cry. And then, we were at your parade.”
“The way people bonded together here (in Clendenin, WV) after the flood is the way people bonded together in Wirt County for Jess,” Clendenin said proudly.
Jessica is actually in Clendenin on this day to support her friend who is now mayor. And, to celebrate the recovery of this flood-ravaged town.
“So Jessica, you walk into Mayor Shana’s office now, what is that like,” Abney asked?
“Crazy! But I love it,” Lynch exclaimed. “I’m so proud of her, like so so proud.”
“This is like Wirt County girl power at its best, right,” Abney asked?
Clendenin and Lynch high five one another.
“Yes,” Lynch exclaimed!
But these two survivors from different battles are proving that the ties that bind their friendship are unbreakable, much like the women themselves.
“It just shows that through all, through everything we’ve been through, we always stick together,” Clendenin stated. “There’s a story of survivorship here. There’s a story of survivorship there. And, to bring those two things together means a lot.”