Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch's family is on cloud nine over her rescue from Iraqi captors, but they're still praying for the other missing soldiers who were in her unit.
In a press conference today, Gregory Lynch Sr., Jessica's father, said the family couldn't wait to "tell her that we love her, and the little brat caused a big stir."
The Lynch family got the good news at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. Greg Lynch Sr. said it took him a while to believe it, and now he can't wait to see his 19-year-old daughter again.
"I'm just going to hug her, and no reporters better get in the way," Jessica's father said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today. "We're real proud that they went in and got her, it's hard to think about the others and we hope all the other soldiers come home and are well too," he said.
By this evening, the family had received the call from Jessica that they had been waiting for. During the 10-minute phone call, she sounded as though she was in good spirits, and said that she had not eaten in eight days, Greg Lynch Sr. said. The family expects her to call again Thursday morning.
Lynch's brother and a National Guard member, Greg Lynch Jr., said "it felt good" to see his sister on TV after not knowing where she was for more than a week.
"We're still in the dark and don't know her condition," her brother said. "If Mom and Dad could hear her voice, it would bring the family morale up a little."
In his morning briefing from Central Command in Qatar, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks showed video of U.S. troops carrying Jessica Lynch on a stretcher to a waiting helicopter after she was rescued in a daring raid at a hospital in the south-central Iraqi town of Nasiriyah.
She had been held as a prisoner of war since her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, was attacked by Iraqis on March 23.
The rescued American POW arrived at a U.S. air base in southwestern Germany aboard a C-17 transport plane late this evening, for treatment at a U.S. military medical center.
U.S. officials in Kuwait say Lynch is believed to have broken legs, a broken arm and at least one gunshot wound. The Lynch family is hoping she can finish any treatment she requires in the United States.
Lynch was reported missing when her unit's convoy was ambushed near Nasiriyah. She was not among the five soldiers whose faces were shown on Iraqi television after the capture, and the military had officially listed her status as unknown.
Lynch is well-loved in her tight-knit hometown of Palestine, W.Va., where residents hung yellow ribbons, held prayer services and pulled together to support her parents after hearing that she went missing.
Before Lynch left, she went to speak to some 5-year-olds at her old elementary school, said her kindergarten teacher Linda Davies.
"She keeps telling me that she's going to come back to teach," Davis said. "She tells me she's going to stand in my place one day."
The young woman, who was shy as a kindergartener, had blossomed into a confident young woman who in addition to teaching enjoyed travel, Davies said.
Rodney Watson, Lynch's softball coach at Wirt County High School, said last week that "Jessie" was one of his favorite players. When the girls on his softball team heard she was missing, they joined hands during practice on the outfield, and prayed for her safe return.
"Jessie is not very big, but she's got a really big heart," Watson said. "She was an outfielder for us, and nothing could stop her. She's a real go-getter, who was aggressive, very well-liked by the whole community. Everyone knew her, and you could always talk to her."
Others Still Missing
The fate of the other soldiers who were captured in Lynch's unit remains unclear. Five of them, some apparently wounded, were displayed on Iraqi state television, along with the bodies of some dead service members, provoking intense anger from U.S. officials. A total of 16 U.S. service members are still listed as missing.
Acting on an intelligence tip about Lynch's whereabouts, U.S. special operations forces slipped behind enemy lines and seized Lynch from the Saddam Hospital under cover of darkness Tuesday, military officials said. The rescue operation included Marines, Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Air Force pilots and combat controllers. Those involved in the operation also recovered 11 bodies during Lynch's rescue, according to military officials.