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CNN BREAKING NEWS

War Wounded Return From Iraq

Aired April 12, 2003 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we want to go back live to Germany to Ramstein Air Base. We understand that Jessica Lynch's family has just gotten on board that plane. This could be her in this ambulance. We initially thought she was on that bus, but apparently only her family was on board that bus.
Of course, Jessica Lynch has been treated at the Landstuhl Hospital in Germany. When she boards that plane, that plane will take off for Washington, D.C., it will land at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and then she'll be checked into Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C.

Also on board that bus that we saw that apparently Jessica's family was on are other injured troops. We don't know how many as of yet, we're trying to gather that information right now.

Let's watch for a bit.

Not yet.

Apparently, though, Jessica Lynch is recovering nicely from her injuries. She's suffering from a fractured arm, two fractured legs, injuries to her spine. She was also shot in the arm and leg. Apparently she's sitting up, she's eating well, she's joking with her family. She isn't able to stand as of yet, but she is able to do things like brush her own hair.

So according to doctors there, those are good signs that she is making a speedy recovery.

I'm going to stick with it for a few more minutes to see if she gets out of that ambulance.

As I said before, her parents, Greg Senior and Diadra (ph) Lynch, I believe her brother is there along with her cousin, all of them who got off of a bus and onto the plane, so that's why we think that Jessica Lynch is in that ambulance ready to be taken aboard that plane herself.

Of course, this latest Germany for -- or this latest journey, rather, for Jessica Lynch takes place 11 days after U.S. special operations forces rescued her from a hospital in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Lynch, as you know, was a member of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, and she fell into Iraqi hands when her unit was ambushed on March 23. She was rescued on April 1.

She's been treated at Landstuhl Hospital for the past eight days. That's longer than is normal for troops to be treated at Landstuhl. Usually they're taken to the United States much sooner than that. But, of course, as you know, Jessica Lynch's injuries were extensive.

OK, momentarily, I understand, David Jolley's on the phone. You're at Ramstein Air Base. Good morning.

DAVID JOLLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Good morning.

COSTELLO: Tell us what's happening.

JOLLEY: OK. Well, at the moment, we're looking at a C-141 cargo plane that's been adapted to carry the injured back to Andrews Air Force Base in Washington. We're expecting Private Lynch to be put onto this aircraft in the next few minutes. We've been told she's the fourth litter patient, the fourth stretcher patient, to be loaded onto this aircraft. At the moment, we haven't seen too activity.

We also believe her family are on this blue bus that is parked just in front of the aircraft. I'm not sure whether you can see it from your vantage point. But we're hoping in the next few minutes to see some movement. Obviously she'll be taken back to Andrews Air Force Base and then transferred to the Walter Reed medical facility, also in Washington.

COSTELLO: Now, we had thought her family was already on board the plane, but apparently they are not, right?

JOLLEY: Well, we did actually see them a few minutes ago, a blue minibus very similar to the one parked in front of the plane drove past us, and we did actually see the family sitting in the back. We have no way of telling if this is the same bus that we saw some minutes ago, but I have every reason to believe that it is the family in the back of this bus.

I'm not sure whether you're seeing it in the live pictures. But from my vantage point here on the runway, I can see a blue minivan with a green medical bus just pulling in front of it that may or may not contain Private Lynch.

COSTELLO: Tell us about Private Lynch's condition. Do you have an update for us?

JOLLEY: We have very sketchy details. The hospital is being very tight-lipped about her condition over the past few days. They have told us she's out of intensive care. She's been sitting up over the past few days. She's not been lying in bed, she's been sitting. And she's been starting to take solid food. She's been requesting blueberry muffins, milkshakes, applesauce, kind of, you know, not too demanding food.

COSTELLO: Yes. We understand she's been joking with her family, and apparently she is still in good spirits.

JOLLEY: Apparently so. We saw a press conference a few days ago with the family, and they've communicated to us that she's in very good spirits at the moment. She's looking forward to going back to the States, as far as we can ascertain. We can only imagine what sort of experiences she's had in the eight days that she was in captivity in Iraq, and we can only imagine that she thought very many times about returning to the States and returning to her family.

COSTELLO: We understand she's undergone a number of surgeries while under care in Germany. Do you know what kind of treatment she'll receive in the United States?

JOLLEY: Not really. As I say, the hospital not too forthcoming on her injuries, or indeed the state of her recovery. We do know that she had back surgery the day after she arrived, or several days after she arrived back from Kuwait City. This was to correct a slipped disk that was pressing on her spine. And we do know she's also had some orthopedic surgery and some surgery to clean the wounds that she received on her limbs.

But I've no idea what will happen to her when she arrives at the Walter Reed. I guess now she's probably in a position where there'll be some form of physiotherapy.

COSTELLO: I just read an article just a short time ago that her family actually donated blood to help out there. Had you heard about that?

JOLLEY: That's right, there were some -- there -- actually, we were given some pictures by the Army's photographic unit of the family donating blood, just -- that was yesterday they donated blood. We don't know too much about it. We weren't allowed in to view this, but obviously this was their way of saying thank you to the hospital that has treated their daughter for the past 11 days.

COSTELLO: You know, one can only imagine the emotions that these people are feeling, that the Lynch family is feeling. Have you gotten a chance to speak to them much?

JOLLEY: Not really, only the press conference. That was our one and only opportunity to actually get close to them. As I said, they communicated the fact that she was in high spirits, that she was glad to see them, that she was getting a great deal of support from their presence. They visit her on a daily -- or have visited her on a daily basis over here.

But we don't know too much about what they talked to her about. We did press them at the press conference to reveal more about exactly what she experienced in Iraq, but they said they hadn't yet spoken to her about those experiences and that they were going to wait until she was ready to communicate those experiences to her -- to them.

COSTELLO: That the family is going to fly on board this plane with her, is that an unusual thing to happen?

JOLLEY: No, not at all. We're expecting 50 patients to be on this flight, so Private Lynch is obviously not the only patient. We're also expecting 27 relatives and military -- and medical officials to travel on this flight. So, no, it's not an unusual occurrence for families to accompany people back. We do now have at the hospital, or we have had at the hospital since the beginning of the conflict some 380 -- no, just let me check that, I've got my notes in front of me -- 380 people have passed through the hospital now, and a good deal of those have had relatives on the hospital grounds.

COSTELLO: Yes, and I know that I should have asked you this before about the under -- other injured troops coming home. What can you tell us about them? Do you know what...

JOLLEY: Not a great deal of information coming out. We have had two -- we have had one press conference where we've had an opportunity to speak -- I'm sorry, I'll correct myself -- two press conferences where we've had the opportunity to speak to the wounded.

The type of injuries that we've been allowed to view have generally been blast and burn injuries. Not too much information coming out of the hospital as to the extent of the injuries being suffered by those currently cared for at Landstuhl.

I imagine that in the next week, as we see the end of this conflict, the conflict coming to an end, we may find out more information about the type of injuries that have been treated here.

COSTELLO: All right. David Jolley, we're going to step away. Hopefully you'll stick around. We're going to move on to other news, but we're going to keep this live picture up so that we can monitor the situation from Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

So let's move on now.

You could call them the coalition of the unwilling, the leaders of France, Germany, and Russia, who opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Now they're talking about a postwar Iraq.

CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty joins us now live with the latest on that. Good morning.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Good morning, Carol.

Well, there -- the summit is beginning to wrap up, and ending two days -- actually not a full two days, but this meeting among the three leaders, Russia, France, and Germany. And the theme, of course, emerging, as everyone expected, is that the main body that should be organizing the postwar situation in Iraq should be the United Nations.

For Russia, after all, the United Nations is where it has influence, because it is a permanent member of the Security Council.

But one of the strongest statements about this came actually from French President Jacques Chirac, who said, essentially, that he agrees that sometimes military force is necessary, but everything should be controlled by the United Nations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACQUES CHIRAC, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): The use of force is sometimes the price of peace, but according to the charter of the United Nations, it must be the last resort when all other options have been exhausted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: So there were not a lot of specifics, quite honestly, after this summit. Part of it was, of course, the symbolism of having these three leaders together, and then part of it is that the -- these countries now have to define specifically what they want to do and how they want to participate in postwar Iraq.

So the most specific they got, I guess you'd have to say, would be somewhere to the idea of something that looked like what happened in Afghanistan, bringing together international countries for an international, in effect, donors' forum to figure out the financing of the postwar situation in Iraq.

However, you'd have to say that, again, the United States believes that the coalition should be the one that runs things, at least initially in Iraq after the war is over.

And finally, one last thing, Carol, on funding, they did -- on forgiving debt, which is a big issue, the Russians, Mr. Putin, did seem to indicate the possibility that they could be open to discussing that idea.

Back to you.

COSTELLO: Well, you have to wonder, with all the tension before the war began between these three countries and the United States and Britain, how much pull these countries will actually have in the end.

DOUGHERTY: Well, that's a good point, and what they're -- they were trying to do, I think, is a bit of fence-mending here. At the same time that they were saying, We want the U.N. to control the situation, they were also saying, and all three leaders agreed, that they're glad Saddam Hussein is gone. But they would take issue with how that happened.

And Mr. Putin, being a lawyer, which he is, looking forward, said that the international institutions, legal institutions like the U.N., have to be reformed so that some of this division doesn't happen again should there be another similar situation.

COSTELLO: Understand. Jill Dougherty reporting live from Moscow. Many thanks to you.

We're still keeping an eye on Ramstein Air Base, waiting for Private Jessica Lynch to be put aboard that plane, along with her family, to fly back to the United States to Washington, D.C., and the Walter Reed Army medical facility. We're going to keep an eye on that.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back. Actually, we're going to stick around, because something is happening, as you can see, injured troops getting off the bus and onto that plane to also be taken to Washington, D.C. Some 50 injured troops aboard various buses and ambulance being loaded onto that plane to be also taken to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Do we still have David Jolley on the line?

David, let me ask you, describe what's happening to us now.

JOLLEY: OK. Well, we're seeing some activity now. We're seeing a blue ambulance bus at the back of the airplane, which we've believing may move up to the ramp. Traditionally, the buses move to the back of the ramp, and then the litters or stretchers are taken from the bus and then loaded onto the plane.

This may take some time. As you pointed out, we have 50 wounded being put onto this bus. Twelve of those, we're being told, are stretcher cases, and 38 are walking wounded. We've seen some walking wounded already getting onto the plane. But as I said, we're expecting Private Lynch to be the fourth stretcher to be loaded onto this C-141.

COSTELLO: Have you gotten a chance to talk to any of the injured troops that are leaving for the United States now?

JOLLEY: No. We've had two press conferences at which injured troops have been presented to us, and we've had an opportunity to talk to them. But at the time that we talked to them, we didn't know whether they would be staying for some time in Landstuhl or being sent back to the United States. Obviously it is the aim of Landstuhl to repatriate, as it were, all of the patients currently being treated there. They will all return at some time, obviously, quite obviously, to the United States.

But depending on the severity of their injuries, this can take some time.

We're seeing some activity now to the right of the plane. I believe these are some local generals who have come in their capacity as Army generals to see off the wounded. And another bus is moving round to the lefthand side, which may or may not contain Private Lynch.

COSTELLO: And of course there is, like, enormous interest in Jessica Lynch back here in the United States. Is there that same sense of celebrity in Germany as it applies to Private Lynch?

JOLLEY: No. I think this is certainly an American phenomena. She's certainly a symbol of the war for Americans, a hero, if you like, somebody that represents the better side of conflict. But there isn't that interest in Europe. I mean, there is -- initially, when she was rescued in the daring rescue attempt by special forces, there was obviously a considerable interest amongst the media here in Europe. But not the sustained interest that we're seeing in the United States. COSTELLO: Is this the largest number of casualties that you have seen being flown back to the United States?

JOLLEY: This is actually the first flight that we've been allowed to film returning wounded back to the United States. Generally we've been here to film wounded arriving. But these aircraft, these C-141 cargo planes, which have been adapted for carrying the wounded, can carry up to 100 patients or even more. So this is not in any sense a full load, this is only a half-load.

COSTELLO: I understand, that those look like a very large aircraft.

As you mentioned before, along with these injured troops, some family members will also be on board that plane.

JOLLEY: We believe yes. As I told you before, we believe there are 27 civilians, if you like, that could include relatives of those people traveling back to Andrews, traveling back to Walter Reed Army facility. Some of those 27, we also believe, are obviously medical personnel who will be traveling on this plane. But we do expect a certain amount of relatives, including, obviously, the Lynch family, who we've not yet seen boarding this plane.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. We're still waiting. So we are going to take that break now. David, I hope you stick around. We're going to take a very short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Quick update for you now, in case you're just joining us. That's a live picture from Ramstein Air Base, where Private Jessica Lynch is expected to be unloaded from an ambulance and put aboard that plane, along with her family and 50 other injured troops. They'll be flown back to the United States, where they'll land at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and then it's on to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

So as Private Jessica Lynch is taken out of the ambulance and put aboard that plane, we'll go back to that live picture.

Right now, though, we'll continue on.

It may not be the most dangerous job in Iraq, but it is one of the most grueling. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the never-ending work of the Navy Devil Docs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each of these bangs and explosions comes with a story. Some we'll never know. For others, the stories can be seen in their injuries.

Nobody knows these stories better than the Devil Docs, Naval corpsmen who never look the other way, but rather face what needs to be done without flinching. They are often the first faces the injured see, be they Iraqi...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: All right, we're going back. The family of Jessica Lynch now getting aboard that plane.

David Jolley, are you still on the line with me?

JOLLEY: Still here, yes.

COSTELLO: OK. Describe what you're seeing.

JOLLEY: I just saw the family leaving -- exiting the blue van and going towards to the aircraft. I saw Greg Junior, he was heading up the family wearing a yellow jacket. The family obviously traveling also back to Andrews Air Force Base. We don't know what their plans are after that, whether they'll be returning directly to West Virginia or whether they'll be spending some time at the Walter Reed facility, Army facility, with their daughter, with their relative, Jessica Lynch.

At this time, we don't have any further information on that.

COSTELLO: Yes, I believe we -- this is -- we've turned around tape of the family getting on board that plane, and you can see the brother. There's the father, Greg, the mother. And I believe that's Jessica's cousin along with them too, right, David?

JOLLEY: Dan Little, yes, accompanied the family. All five of them, the two siblings and the two parents and Dan Little have been here for the past six days in Germany, staying at the Landstuhl military hospital. They -- there is a special hotel that is provided for relatives, and they've spent the past six days there, of course, giving us a press conference a couple of days ago.

COSTELLO: And I understand Jessica Lynch has been there eight days, and that's really longer than most of the wounded stay in Germany, right?

JOLLEY: It depends, it depends. It depends on the severity of the injuries. Landstuhl forms a very clear part of a medical procedure that begins with battlefield treatment.

Oh, we're seeing the first stretcher coming over from the left. We're told, as I said, that she is going to be on the fourth stretcher, so we'll have to keep an eye out on the stretchers now.

Yes, Landstuhl is very much -- forms very much a part of a medical procedure beginning with battle -- beginning with the medical treatment on the battleground and then moving to a site hospital, and then from the site hospital to Landstuhl, and then when the patients are fully stabilized, then they move on to the USA.

So we can only assume that Jessica's condition at the moment is fully stabilized. Certainly the hospital feels happy to release her back to the United States. COSTELLO: Yes, and you said before that she's sitting up now, which is a very good sign.

JOLLEY: Absolutely, considering the fact she had six hours of back surgery to free this slipped disk that was pressing on her spinal cord, we can assume by the fact that she's sitting up in bed eating solids now for the first time -- she was on intravenous fluids for some time, she was in intensive care for some time -- we can assume by the very fact that she's sitting up in bed that she's obviously making some speedy recovery.

COSTELLO: Yes, we know that there's been an injury to her spine, and we know for a time she couldn't feel her feet. And, you know, many Americans are wondering if she's going to be OK enough to walk again.

JOLLEY: This is a question that certainly I can't answer. As I say, the hospital is been giving us very, very basic information on her -- on -- basically on her recovery while she's staying here. They're not saying anything about what will happen when she goes to Walter Reed, and they haven't said too much about the -- about the prognosis for the future, although we can assume that if she's making a speedy recovery, that things could be good for her in the future.

COSTELLO: We hope so. And you think she'd be the fourth stretcher. And I don't want to ignore the other injured troops getting on board that plane, but you don't have much information about them, right?

JOLLEY: No, no. We just know that there are 40 other injured troops -- 49, excuse me, other injured troops traveling with her, but we don't know anything about their identity or what units they're attached to. Obviously the bulk of the media attention here is focused on Jessica Lynch herself, and her return to the United States.

COSTELLO: And while we're waiting for her to get off of that bus and onto the plane, tell us again where she is heading.

JOLLEY: She's heading back to Andrews Air Force Base, and then she's going to be transferred from Andrews to the Walter Reed medical institute. As I said, we don't know, when she arrives in the U.S., what the course of treatment will be. We just know that she's been here for 11 days, and the doctors here are very satisfied with her progress, and obviously feel that it's time to transfer her back to the United States.

COSTELLO: Yes. We don't know when she's going to finally head home. She is going to receive some treatment at the Walter Reed Army medical facility in Washington, D.C. But back in her home town of Palestine, West Virginia, T-shirts are being made up. She really has become a major celebrity, not only in West Virginia but in the whole of the United States.

But you say in Europe the feeling is much different.

JOLLEY: There is interest here in Europe, obviously, amongst the media. She's -- she, as I said before, is very much a symbol of the good side of conflict, if you like, they're heroes, the young 19-year- old pretty woman who was saved from the clutches of the enemy, if you like.

So she is -- she has been very interesting as a subject for European media. But there is certainly not the level of interest that exists over in the United States.

COSTELLO: And, of course, there's much interest here too about the Iraqi who helped coalition forces rescue her. A lot of people wondering who he is, wanting to hear from him. Is there that sense of curiosity in Europe as well?

JOLLEY: Absolutely, absolutely. The interest, the level of interest generally in what's happening during this conflict has not subdued, obviously. But as to the -- if you like, the furor surrounding the status of Jessica Lynch and her future celebrity, if you like, and her hero status, this is a purely American phenomena. There isn't that level of interest over here, although people are very interested to find out more and more details about her rescue and about the extent of her injuries.

Obviously there was this confusion as to whether she was stabbed, as to whether she was shot, and the hospital, first of all, came out and said this wasn't the case, and then they changed their mind and issued a statement saying it was possible (UNINTELLIGIBLE) she had been shot.

So this kind of detail is very much a part of the media over here. But the hero status is the -- is an American thing.

COSTELLO: Is there a final update on exactly where she was shot? Because we do know she was shot now.

JOLLEY: We know that she received, possibly received a gunshot wound to her right arm and to her limbs.

I'm sorry, I'm just breaking off there to see another stretcher being carried across there. We don't yet believe that is her.

COSTELLO: No, it does not look like her.

JOLLEY: This next one, possibly, could be her. I'm just looking for confirmation to see whether this is her being carried across. Obviously she arrived with a great deal of security when she...

Just checking now. What...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JOLLEY: OK, we're believing here that this could be her. As I said, when she arrived originally at Ramstein Air Base here in Germany, she arrived amid very, very tight security. We can see some military -- what look like MPs standing around here, so this could possibly be her. We're trying to get confirmation. It's a bit confusing, given the fact that there are 50, as I say, patients being loaded onto this plane.

COSTELLO: I understand. You were talking about the security around her.

JOLLEY: Absolutely. When she arrived, she arrived with a number of armed guards...

COSTELLO: David, we believe we're seeing her now.

JOLLEY: This, I believe too, is her. We're looking for confirmation. I'm looking to the military officials here. But I believe that this is -- these are pictures, live pictures of Jessica Lynch being loaded onto the airplane.

COSTELLO: Yes, we couldn't see her very well because the knapsack was in the way. But we do understand that this is Jessica Lynch, and she joins her family, who is already aboard that plane, right, David?

JOLLEY: Absolutely. She'll be reunited, obviously, the family has probably seen her once today, but she'll be reunited on the flight with the family, and she will be with them during the eight- to nine- hour journey that they will take, this C-141 aircraft, to reach Andrews Air Force Base.

COSTELLO: Was she the last injured troop loaded aboard that plane, do you think, or is there more to come?

JOLLEY: Oh, no. No, no, I -- we haven't counted that many going in so far. As I said, we're expecting 12 stretcher patients to be loaded onto this aircraft. And if our calculations are correct, she is the fourth, so obviously another eight stretchers will be now loaded onto this aircraft.

COSTELLO: And before I let you go, tell me again about the security surrounding this scene that we're looking at.

JOLLEY: Well, security is very tight. As I say, I've been here, I've been present here over the last few weeks monitoring flights coming in with wounded, and we haven't seen any wounded arriving with armed guards, as it were. She is the first patient that we've seen arrive on German soil that has actively been protected by military police.

When we saw her arrive, there were pictures of military (UNINTELLIGIBLE) police surrounding her. Obviously she's very -- she's a very much -- an important symbol for the United States, and obviously they don't want anything to happen to her.

COSTELLO: Absolutely, again. Before I let you go too, David, can we confirm absolutely that was Jessica Lynch being loaded aboard that plane?

JOLLEY: I'm looking around for a military official to confirm this. This may take some time. But I -- to the best of my knowledge, that was Jessica being loaded onto the airplane. COSTELLO: All right. I believe we should let David go so that he can check out the information. And we should step away from this live picture for a time to allow him to do that.

So we do believe that Private Jessica Lynch is on board that plane, along with her family. There, we were running the tape right now. And it's, of course, very difficult to see, because we can't see the face of that person on the stretcher, but we do believe that is Private Jessica Lynch being taken aboard this plane that will soon be headed to Washington, D.C. It will land at Andrews Air Force Base, first in Maryland, and then Jessica and the other injured troops will be taken to the Walter Reed Army medical facility in Washington, D.C., for further treatment.

Don't know when she'll return home to Palestine, West Virginia, where many of her family and friends are waiting for her, and where she's become quite a celebrity, not only in West Virginia, but in the entire country.

Again, Private Jessica Lynch, leaving Germany now for treatment back in the United States.

Take a break, move on. We're -- let's take a break right now. We'll be right back with the latest developments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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