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Wednesday, July 23

Lynch family celebrates homecoming as media seeks story

By The Herald-Dispatch

PALESTINE, W.Va. - Jubilation was the order of the day along Mayberry Run Road on Tuesday when former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch got home.

"They got her out of the vehicle and put her in her chair on the porch,'' says cousin Pam Nicolais. ``Her little cousins came up to her; one got on her lap and the other one just hugged on her. It was precious; they have missed that little girl so much.''

Lynch, 20, an Army private first class who was severely injured in an ambush in Iraq on March 23 and was dramatically rescued by special operations forces early April 2, soon had a chance to see her new bedroom, the centerpiece of a renovation and expansion project at the family home financed entirely by donations.

``We moved the furniture in (Tuesday morning),'' Nicolais says. ``She was just thrilled - excited and thrilled. She loved it.''

Nicolais says Lynch enjoyed her mother's homecoming supper of fried chicken and chocolate pie, and didn't seem to be in pain.

``If she was, I certainly couldn't tell it,'' she says.

Earlier, Nicolais thought Lynch appeared nervous as she was wheeled to her microphone at a news conference at Sportsman Park in Elizabeth, W.Va., where more than 350 media representatives waited to hear her voice for the first time.

Nicolais was one of several members of the family seated in a reserved area beside the stage with the West Virginia Army National Guard helicopter crew that brought her home.

Lynch held up well, reading the statement she had prepared with a strong, clear voice. Nicolais noticed that she wiped her eyes twice.

``But I don't know if that was tears or sweat,'' she says.

If Lynch wants the rest of her story told, there is no shortage of willing storytellers.

Whether anyone would get the coveted interview revealing the who, where, when and how - and maybe how much - was the million-dollar question Tuesday at Sportsman Park.

"It is going to be one of the most sought after interviews," said MSNBC and NBC anchor Lester Holt. "Generally, (getting the interview) is about patience and developing a relationship. I think they (the Lynches) want a fair shot to tell the story, not an easy ride. I think everybody wants to be treated that way."

In mid-June, the Associated Press reported that ABC News sent a letter to the Lynch family offering a prime-time special, a multipart special on "Good Morning America," and reports on either "Nightline" or "World News Tonight."

CBS News, meanwhile, has said it did nothing wrong in dangling possible book and TV deals to secure an exclusive interview with Lynch, although Chairman Leslie Moonves said in a statement Monday that the network had crossed the line with its offers.

Representatives from both "Good Morning America" and CBS would not comment on attempts to land the Lynch interview.

CNN correspondent Bob Franken, who has been on the story from the beginning, said he figures a deal will be struck with one of the networks.

"My guess is they probably have an agent and I don't blame them," Franken said.

Maj. Mike Cadle, state public affairs officer with the West Virginia National Guard, said it could be some time before Lynch talks.

"She will do it when she is well and when she is ready," Cadle said. "I don't think the offers are a big factor."