Jessica Lynch heads home Tuesday
PALESTINE, West Virginia (CNN) -- Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch returns to her home in the rugged green hills of West Virginia Tuesday, following a dramatic rescue and months of painful recuperation.
Thousands of well-wishers are expected to cheer the 20-year-old Army private first class as she and her family are honored with a parade.
She will also speak to the news media for the first time since her April rescue from an Iraqi hospital that drew worldwide attention.
Lynch is scheduled to arrive mid-afternoon in Elizabeth, about 70 miles north of Charleston, the state capital.
She will appear before the assembled media in a tent, then travel in a military motorcade to Palestine, her tiny hometown about three miles away.
Lynch is still unable to stand on her own and faces more rehabilitation as she can walk only with a walker. To accommodate her recovery, volunteer workers have built an addition on the family home that was financed by local and national businesses.
A family spokesman said last week Lynch plans to seek a discharge from the Army.
Lynch has spent more than three months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., recovering from injuries.
She was hurt when her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas, was ambushed after taking a wrong turn near Nasiriya on March 23. Eleven soldiers died in the attack and five were taken prisoner.
Lynch suffered three breaks in her left leg, multiple breaks in her right foot, a fractured disk in her back, a broken right upper arm and lacerations on her head, family spokesman Randy Coleman said last week.
A military report on the ambush said Lynch was injured when the Humvee in which she was riding was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed.
After the ambush, Lynch was taken to a hospital in Nasiriya, where Iraqi doctors treated her.
U.S. forces, acting on a tip, descended on the hospital in the middle of the night on April 1 and rescued her, making the young woman an international celebrity.
Staff members at the Iraqi hospital said later that no Iraqi troops were in the facility by the time U.S. forces arrived.
They also said they had earlier tried to turn Lynch over to American forces but turned back when their ambulance was fired upon.
Nasiriya, along the Euphrates River in southern Iraq, was the scene of some of the war's most intense fighting. At the time Lynch was rescued, the city was not yet under full coalition control.
In a ceremony Monday at Walter Reed, Lynch was presented with the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the POW medal.
In making the presentation, Lt. Gen. James B. Peake, the Army's surgeon general, said the medals "are about service, and what it means to be a part of this organization and uniform," according to a hospital statement.
The ceremony included her family and the medical staff who had taken care of her, the statement said.
The Bronze Star is given for meritorious service in combat and the Purple Heart is given to service members wounded in action.
Afterward, Lynch thanked the hospital staff for the care she received, the statement said.
CNN Correspondents Bob Franken and Patty Davis contributed to this report.