From model soldier to model student: Private Lynch goes back to school

The 22-year-old former supply clerk is to attend the University of West Virginia in Morgantown, about 100 miles from her home. Her home state recently announced it will pay her tuition fees.

In an interview, Ms Lynch said she hoped she would be able to blend in with other students. "It's to the point [at which] I'm able to handle it better," she told Time magazine. "It was hard getting stopped all the time when I wasn't used to it. It doesn't bother me now. But I don't want any special attention drawn to me. I'll try and blend in as much as I can. I have to say I'm a little nervous."

Ms Lynch was taken prisoner when her unit, the Texas-based 507th Maintenance Company, was ambushed after taking a wrong turn in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah in March 2003. Eleven of her comrades were killed and Ms Lynch - who suffered a number of broken bones as a result of her Humvee crashing - was held as a prisoner for eight days, most of which time she spent in the city's wrecked hospital.

The US military dispatched a Delta Force unit to rescue her, though in reality there was no resistance at the hospital and Iraqi doctors did their best to help her, although it had no electricity and no running water. She still uses a walking cane. "I feel great, though my recovery is going slow," she said. "If I put the effort in and work at it I think I will be able to get rid of the canes forever."

Ms Lynch joined the military in order to get financial support to go to college and become a kindergarten teacher. She said she still thinks of the ambush everyday. "There's always something that reminds me of Lori [Piestawa, who was killed] or one of my other fellow comrades. Last night there were fireworks going off ... I have to actually see the fireworks. If I just hear them they sound a little like gunshots or bombs. It kind of puts you back there."

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