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Ex-POW Lynch back in the U.S.A.

Lynch is carried from a C-17 transport plane Saturday at Andrews Air Force Base.
Lynch is carried from a C-17 transport plane Saturday at Andrews Air Force Base.

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SPECIAL REPORT
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ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Maryland (CNN) -- U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch returned to the United States Saturday, nearly three weeks after her unit was ambushed in the Iraqi desert and she was taken prisoner.

A C-17 transport plane carried Lynch and 49 other wounded troops from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where they arrived at 5:12 p.m. EDT.

She was accompanied by family members and was expected to continue recovery at the Army's nearby Walter Reed Medical Center.

The 19-year-old soldier from Palestine, West Virginia, was rescued in a dramatic commando-like raid by U.S. troops on an Iraqi hospital in the southern town of Nasiriya, 10 days after Iraqi forces ambushed her convoy and captured her on March 23.

Lynch, who suffered two broken legs, a broken arm and a fractured back, has stirred widespread public interest in the United States.

Lynch's family members arrived at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany on Sunday -- four days after she was transferred there from Iraq.

Before they left Saturday, they paid tribute to the U.S. forces who rescued her and the medical staff who treated her.

"It is almost impossible to express how grateful we are to the brave American service members who participated in Jessica's rescue and to the courageous Iraqi citizens who risked their lives to make her rescue possible. Jessica is alive because of their sacrifices," they said in a statement.

The Lynches said they could not leave Germany "without expressing our gratitude to the professionals at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

"We truly believe Jessi would not have made such great progress in her recovery had it not been for their care and concern. We are forever thankful for the compassion with which they have treated her and the other injured service members."

The Lynches said they were "blessed by the tremendous outpouring of support for our daughter, Jessica."

"People from across West Virginia, the United States -- everywhere in the world -- have offered comfort and aid. On behalf of Jessica, our family would like to offer our deepest, most sincere thanks for this show of affection."

Troops who rescued Lynch also discovered the bodies of several other members of Lynch's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss, Texas, who had been listed as missing.

Five other members of the company were seen on Iraqi television shortly after their capture and remain listed as prisoners of war. Lynch had been listed as missing at the time of her rescue.

Reporter David Jolly contributed to this report.


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