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Tuesday, November 11

Lynch biographer recalls time spent with family

By Bob Withers | The Herald-Dispatch

Former New York Times reporter Rick Bragg got a call from his agent in the spring asking whether he would be interested in writing Jessica Lynch's story.

``I said, `It's a great story,''' he told The Herald-Dispatch on Monday during a telephone interview. ``But I didn't jump up and down, because I knew how much hard work it would be.''

Publisher Alfred A. Knopf released Bragg's book, ``I Am a Solider, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story,'' on Veterans Day.

Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize winner who left the Times amid controversy over his unattributed use of stringers' work, first met with Lynch's parents Greg and Dee, sister Brandi and cousin Dan Little at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where Lynch was hospitalized.

``Even after the first meeting, there was no guarantee there would be a book,'' Bragg said. ``First, Jessica had to be discharged (from the Army), or at least be sure a discharge was coming before we could talk too much about the book.''

Bragg said he met Lynch later when he was in Palestine on July 22, the day she came home from Walter Reed. He said he stayed with the family for extended periods while researching the book.

He said Lynch considers herself only a survivor.

``She's not going to sit around and thump on her chest and say she's a hero,'' he said. ``She told me at the kitchen table that she's very proud of her service, and of people like Lori (Piestewa, who was killed). But every one of those men and women deserve all the good attention they can get.''

Bragg says the issue of whether the U.S. military used Lynch's story for propaganda purposes is complicated.

``Jessica considers the commandos who came in and took her out of that hospital as heroes, and I do, too,'' he said. But he added that the conflict has been waged on a public relations front as well as a battlefield.

``They used the tape (of Lynch's rescue) as a way to show a clear win at a time when they were hurting for good news,'' he said. ``It's easy to see why they would try to get everything they could from that footage.''

Bragg said the book is about Lynch's ordeal, but it could have been about any soldier.

``This could have been anybody's son or daughter,'' he says. ``It could have been anyone who drove a truck into a war, as Dee put it, to see what's on the other side of the hollow."