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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Jessica Lynch Set to Return Home

Aired July 21, 2003 - 20:20   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Ribbons and bows are going up in Elizabeth, West Virginia, for tomorrow's homecoming of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, who was captured and rescued during the Iraq war.
As we showed you a little bit earlier, PFC Lynch today was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the POW Medal during a ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she's been recovering from extensive injuries she suffered during the war.

Lynch family friend Rodney Watson joins us from Elizabeth, West Virginia, for a preview of what is in store for her tomorrow.

Thank you for joining us. We can see, based on your backdrop, how busy things must be there. Give us a sense of what the town is ready to do.

RODNEY WATSON, FRIEND OF JESSICA LYNCH: Oh, it is pretty crazy around here right now. There's lots of things going on. The population has probably tripled in the last two days from what it normally is. So it is pretty crazy around here.

ZAHN: You've known Jessica all of her life. In fact, you were her softball coach at one time. What is it that you want people to know about her essence?

WATSON: Jessica is a great kid. She's got a great smile and a great personality and very friendly. And we just can't wait until she gets back here into Wirt County again.

ZAHN: Did you always view her as a strong young woman?

WATSON: Oh, yes. She was a very dedicated softball player. She would work. Whatever it took really to get the job done, she would do that. And that's the way she has been all of her life, a bit of a tomboy. I know her brother and she used to play a lot in the woods around her home and climb trees and that type of thing. So she's very active and very great -- she's a great little girl.

ZAHN: Well, that kind of training served her well, didn't it?

WATSON: Yes, it did.

ZAHN: Let's talk about the work that has to get done in the home that awaits Jessica. As I understand, you've been helping in the renovation. Describe to us what you've gotten done so far and what is left to be done. WATSON: Basically, there's lots of cleanup to do before tomorrow and that type of thing. And the house has taken on a whole new look. And it is a big surprise to Jessica. She hasn't actually seen it yet. So it's all a big surprise to her what all is going to be there.

And I have worked very little there. There has been people in this community have that have donated hundreds of hours there at that home working on it. And I've only been there a couple of days. So I haven't been a real dedicated worker there, so...

ZAHN: So this is, in part, an addition and also to make it more accessible to her when she gets home.

WATSON: Yes. They have a ramp, an access, so she can get her crutches or whatever she's going to be on tomorrow into the house. It was an old house. And they've totally renovated it. It is beautiful now. I was inside today. And the things that this community and the merchants in this area and the Parkersburg area that has done for her and donated -- made donations for the house -- it has been unbelievable.

ZAHN: Well, it has certainly been inspiring for all of us to watch. What is it you're going say to Jessica if you get a chance to see her tomorrow? I know everybody wants a little piece of her.

WATSON: Yes. I just want to give her a hug and just see that great smile she has. That will be enough for me.

ZAHN: Rodney Watson, thank you for your time tonight. And good luck. We'll let you get back to work there.

WATSON: Thank you.

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