Former Iraq POW to speak

Jessica Lynch coming to Pigeon Forge next week
Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:01 AM

A noted former solider will help commemorate Veterans Day next week when she speaks at a joint associations meeting of the Sevier County Hospitality & Lodging Alliance (SCHLA).

Jessica Lynch, the former U.S. Army solider captured in Iraq in 2003 that subsequently became the first successful rescue of an American prisoner of war since Vietnam, will speak to the gathering of business professionals and veterans next Thursday.

“Each year our local hospitality associations come together as one to celebrate and honor our Veterans and this year we are excited to have former Private First Class (PFC) and Prisoner of War (POW) Jessica Lynch as our special guest speaker,” said Candra Carroll, who's with the Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association Meetings Committee and was key in getting Lynch as a speaker.

"It's a huge deal to us that (Lynch) is coming," Ken Maples with the SCHLA, said. "(And) Candra ... was the person that pulled this off. She made the phone call and pulled it off."

On March 23, 2003, Lynch was injured and captured by Iraqi forces after her unit was ambushed in Iraq.

Lynch, then 19, was injured when her unit — the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas — took a wrong turn in the desert near Nasiriya, and was ambushed by Iraqis, CNN reported at the time.

"The Humvee in which Lynch was riding was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer, according to a military report," CNN stated. "Eleven soldiers in her unit died, including four from Lynch's vehicle. Five other soldiers were taken prisoner. Lynch was taken to a hospital in Nasiriya and treated by Iraqi doctors."

She was rescued after nine days in captivity on April 1, 2003 by U.S. special operations forces. 

Author Rick Bragg wrote about her experiences in, “I’m a soldier, too: The Jessica Lynch story.”

She was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Prisoner of War Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

Today, Lynch speaks to various groups around the United States about overcoming her obstacles and how perseverance helped her survive.  She further explains that despite the most difficult circumstances – whatever they might be – a positive outlook and determination can truly help individuals live fulfilling lives and accomplish their goals. 

 “Our local hospitality associations are humbled to be a small part of the overall celebration honoring our veterans,” Maples said. “We all know that without their service and sacrifice that our United States of America would not be the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Maples continued. “We each owe a great debt of gratitude to each and every veteran as well as our current service men and women."

Members of the affiliated associations, as well as all current and former military members, are invited to the Nov. 14 event, which begins at 11:15 a.m. at Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge. Attendees will also get a sneak peek of "Christmas at Dixie Stampede."All veterans and current service men/women will receive a complimentary group photo and lunch.

"It's just a chance to honor (veterans). We will recognize them," Maples said. "And Jessica will speak. It's just really a salute and tribute solely, to them."

Attendees may RSVP to info@PFHospitality.org. For more information please visit PFHopsitality.org.