Former POW Jessica Lynch Recalls Her Captivity in Iraq

Lynch, Shoshana Johnson, and Patrick Miller talk to U.S. News about moving on.

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Five years ago, the military's filming of her rescue prompted charges that Lynch was being used for a patriotic photo op. Lynch, for her part, says she is glad they filmed the rescue. "I was able to go back and look at it and say, 'Oh, my gosh,' " she says, recalling that at the time she was unconvinced that her rescuers were truly American. "I had no idea if it was the U.S. mili-tary or Iraqi insurgents dressed like us," she says. "I was wondering, 'Is this a tactic to get me out of the hospital and take me somewhere and kill me?' I was so, so scared deep inside."

Despite doctors' earlier concerns, Lynch, 24, is now a parent, with fiancé Wes Robinson, to a 14-month-old daughter, named Dakota Ann in honor of her best friend, Lori Ann Piestewa, who died in captivity after the attack on the 507th. Lynch plans to teach kindergarten after she gets her degree from a local college in Parkersburg, W.Va., where she is in her junior year of classes. "I love that age," she says. "It's exciting for me, and it's what I've wanted to do my whole life."

Patrick Miller

As the details and facts of the 507th capture began to emerge, Patrick Miller's role in the immediate aftermath of the attack garnered relatively little attention. But in her congressional testimony nearly one year ago, Jessica Lynch singled out Miller as one of the soldiers whose real heroics that day were "legendary," one "who actually did fight until the very end."

As his truck doubled back through town and was disabled by gunfire, then Private Miller ran beyond the crash site. Miller says that it was not his intention to get in a firefight. He simply wanted to see if he could get a stalled truck started again and in doing so, get some of his fellow soldiers out of town. But he saw an Iraqi setting up a mortar pit on the back side of a truck. "I thought, 'Holy s - - -,' " he says. "So I shot, and he fell down."

With no one else in the mortar pit, Miller pivoted, and as he turned, he found himself "looking straight at an rpg." He hit the ground behind a mound of earth as it exploded. "There was dirt everywhere," he says. After checking to see if he still had arms and legs, Miller looked back toward the mortar area. "And there's another guy trying to load the tube, and I shot him," he says. "And I did that probably six more times after that." He turned around and fired more shots at a man to his rear. "And he didn't get up." When he turned around to look at the mortar pit again, there were "30 or 40 guys standing on the road."

At that point, Miller began disassembling his weapon. "I popped one pin out of the assembly," he says, and threw the parts in every direction "so they wouldn't use it against us."

As soon as he finished doing that, he was gang-tackled.

There was an argument then, he says, about who exactly was going to take him. They removed his Kevlar body armor and, in doing so, found in his helmet a piece of paper with numbers written on it. They were military radio frequencies, but "I told them they were prices for power steering pumps." That bit of fast thinking came to him, he says, as a result of the errands he was running to get his car fixed just before he went to war. "I don't know what the hell they were thinking, but they threw [that piece of paper] in the fire."

They found something else, too, in the pouch of Miller's flak vest—a can of chewing tobacco. "I told them it was 'man candy.' " Miller then stuck a hunk in the back of his mouth. His Iraqi captors began eating it and promptly threw up. "I wanted to laugh," he says. "But I didn't think it would be a good idea."

Miller, 28, says that as a captive, he was not roughed up, but some of the guards asked questions. "There was one who asked me why I came to Iraq, and I told him that I was told to come. He was like, 'Why didn't you just tell them no?' I told him that if I tell them no, I go to jail. He couldn't understand that." Miller has an injury that continues to plague him, nerve damage he suffered when his arms were tied behind his back with a rubber iv tube—and an Iraqi soldier was stepping on his elbow as he lay on the floor of a truck. Miller says he believes it was an unintentional act in a crowded truck.