Iraqi war vet Lynch honored in Cape Coral
For local veterans, meeting Iraqi war vet and rescued POW Jessica Lynch was like meeting a rock star.
For Michelle Rosenberger, who spent years to get a monument built for people like her in mind, it was an emotional moment.
Lynch, who had been in Southwest Florida since Thursday, visited Eco Park and the Iraq War Monument on Sunday morning. There, on the was monument, she put placed her dog tag, that of her friend, Lori Piestewa, who died in the battle in which Lynch was severely injured as well as those of the others who died when their convey was ambushed, on the monument. Lynch was the first person to affix her own dog tag as well as the first to affix a black dog tag, meaning the person was a prisoner of war.
Lynch arrived shortly after 9 a.m., for a brief ceremony, with many of the local veteran organization leaders on hand.
There was a lot of photo-ops and talking to the media in-between, but people were there to see Lynch put her and her friend’s dog tag upon the monument.
“This is big for the monument. This is what we’ve needed for years. She has been our inspiration to get her name on the star since it was dedicated in 2013,” Rosenberger said. “This is unlike any event that I’ve coordinated because we’ve never had anybody put their own dog tag on the star until today.”
It also meant a lot to Rosenberger because she served the same time Lynch did. In remarks during the ceremony, Rosenberger said those who were killed or wounded on that day did not die in vain. In fact, they saved more lives.
Rosenberger’s military police company intended to take a convoy to Baghdad to set up a prison camp behind Lynch’s company, but a truck broke down, they fell behind, and communication soon failed, leaving them alone, with no way of knowing where they were.
“We returned to base camp in Kuwait. I’m very sorry to learn what her team went through. My heart was broken to hear the news about the ambush,” Rosenberger said. “Many people in my convoy were saved from the same possible fate.”
Lynch served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and Allied Forces. On March 23, Lynch was serving as a unit supply specialist with the 507th Maintenance Company when her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces. Lynch was seriously injured and captured.
Piestewa, along with 10 others, were killed in the ambush. Their gold dog tags, symbolizing they were killed in action, were also place on the monument.
U.S. Special Forces rescued Lynch on April 1. It was the first successful rescue of an American POW since Vietnam and the first ever rescue of a woman.
Rosenberger fought back tears as Lynch needed a boost to get the tags on the top point of the monument. She stated she was touched by all the attention she has received.
“This is such an honor to do this and be standing here with so many veterans. Without you, I wouldn’t be here, either,” Lynch said. “Being able to place Lori’s name up there and honored is one of the most precious gifts I can give to her family and let her legacy live on.”
Kimberly Jacobs, judge advocate at AMVETS Post 65, said it has been an honor being in her presence.
“I feel privileged to meet her today. I’m a veteran, but I didn’t go through what she had to go through,” Jacobs said. “I’m honored to meet her, have lunch with her and expose her to what Southwest Florida hospitality is all about.”
Carol Brush, second vice president at AMVETS, saw Lynch speak in North Port and said she was very conscious of what happened to her.
“It gives me chills to think what she went through and to be the first POW. It’s sad that she has the honor, but then she can lead by experience and knowledge,” Brush said.
Lynch arrived on Southwest Florida on Thursday to a hero’s welcome, complete with a motorcycle escort
It has been a busy few days for Lynch. She visited the Southwest Florida Military Museum on Friday and the AMVETS chapter in North Port on Saturday.
Following her appearance at the monument, she went to the Elks Lodge for a non-denominational service before returning to the museum for a VIP brunch, which many local dignitaries, including Mayor Marni Sawicki, attended.
There was also an outdoor ceremony at the museum following the brunch. Lynch ended her day as the featured guest at an invitation-only dinner with the higher-ups from the veteran organizations.
Lynch she has been moved by the reception she has gotten everywhere she has been, since it should be those who have fallen who should be honored.
“Everyone has been so polite and that has made the trip so great. I want to thank everyone for having me here,” Lynch said. “I love that they’re honoring me, but to me it’s about my comrades who didn’t make it home and being able to honor them and keep their legacies alive.”