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Thursday, April 17

Support for Lynch overwhelming hospital, post office

By Tamara Endicott | The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Rescued POW Jessica Lynch may receive more gifts than she'll ever use when she finally returns home to Palestine, W.Va., but that isn't stopping the outpouring of support well-wishers are sending her way.

The response has been so overwhelming that Lynch's family is requesting that only cards and letters be sent to her while she recuperates in Washington. While the family is trying to curtail the amount of mail coming into the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, one person that can't reduce the volume of mail for Lynch is Palestine's postmaster, Berylann Lewis.

``We are getting around 750 pieces of mail a day for her,'' Lewis said. ``And on Mondays, we're getting over a thousand. There's only two of us that work this post office, me and one rural carrier, but we'll get it delivered.''

The post office started receiving large amounts of mail for Lynch on March 26, a few days after she was taken captive by Iraqi troops, and Lewis calculates that it has handled more than 16,000 pieces to date. Lewis said the Army soldier's mail is easily recognizable because it is usually covered in red, white and blue stickers.

``I don't think they can ever explain to her the enormity of the mail she's gotten,'' Lewis said. ``I think someone could tell me there's that much mail for me, and I wouldn't be able to grasp it.

``There are piles and piles. I can't imagine how she's going to react. It has been really amazing here.''

The packages and letters are being stored while family and friends go through it. Mail is coming from as far away as China, Lewis said.

Brian Collins, 19, a Marshall University student, went to high school with Lynch and also wonders what her reaction will be to the mound of mail.

``She's a small-town girl and was really kind of shy and quiet in school,'' Collins said. ``She's a really nice person. She would do anything for you. She'll be happy that all of this has happened for her, but she would have never expected this big a fuss.''

Another gift that will be making its way to Lynch's home is a 3-foot-by-9-foot banner signed by 400 to 500 Marshall students and faculty, said Missy Oldaker, the Student Government Association's communications director.The ``Welcome Home'' sign, sponsored by the SGA, quickly filled with messages Wednesday and Thursday.

SGA Sen. Josh Cassidy said he realized that Lynch has received many gifts, but felt like offering the banner was the right thing to do.

``I think this is just a small token of what we should be doing for all of our servicemen and women over there,'' Cassidy said. ``This falls really short in comparison, but at least we wanted to feel like we were making an effort.

``I think it's amazing that a 19-year-old girl from Palestine can become such a rallying point internationally for everyone.''

Encouragement has been flowing through the hospital in the form of candy, fruit baskets, T-shirts and stuffed animals. Although Lynch has been ``deeply touched by the outpouring of gifts that well-wishers around the world have sent to her,'' the volume has put a strain on the hospital's staff, a news release said.

The family asks that those who wish to show their support do so by donating to organizations that assist service members in need.

Overwhelming support:

Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch and her family released a statement through Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Thursday asking supporters to send cards and letters in lieu of flowers and gifts.

The family also suggests that those wishing to show support for the troops make a monetary donation to charities such as the Army Emergency Relief, Air Force Aid Society, Navy & Marine Corps Aid Society, American Red Cross, the United Services Organization and the Fisher House Foundation, all of which have a long record of helping service members in need.

Cards or letters for Lynch can be sent to:

Pfc. Jessica Lynch

c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center

6900 Georgia Ave. N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20307-5001

Personal mail for other members of the Lynch family can be sent to the post office at Palestine, WV 26160. No post office box number or other address is necessary.