Story by Carrie Hodousek, MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia veteran and former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch says she will be listening ear for all women veterans returning home from overseas.

Gov. Jim Justice announced last week that Lynch, a Wirt County native, is going to assist the state Department of Veterans Assistance with its new Women Veterans Program.

“The main role is going to be able to get them the help that they need, the benefits especially. Even if it’s just being there, being an ear or a shoulder to cry on because sometimes that’s what we need,” she said during a recent appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The program will attempt to connect women who may have experienced traumatic conditions during their time in the military and connect them with benefits.

Lynch is a motivational speaker to military members, but she said she wants to hear others’ stories, not just share her own. A group she hears from the most is Vietnam veterans.

“Being able to just listen to what they had to deal with and the pain and the suffering, also the things that they are still going through because, unfortunately, that era was kind of forgotten. There’s a lot of Vietnam vets that did not get the benefits that they deserve,” Lynch said.

Women, specifically, have different needs when they come home from war, Lynch said. Their PTSD could be heightened and some are mothers that need additional assistance.

“We all go through obstacles, struggles and when we come war especially, it’s a different lifestyle. Again, it’s about making sure they’re okay,” she said.

Lynch, who will turn 41 this month, was taken prisoner for nine days in 2003 during the Iraq War. She was just 19-years-old when the military convoy her maintenance company was part of in Iraq was ambushed by Iraqi troops. A fellow soldier died in the attack and Lynch was seriously injured when her truck overturned. Lynch was held captive for nine days before a special forces crew rescued her from a hospital.

She said she still deals with the physical impacts of that and has had over 20 surgeries since then.

“I get to the point where it doesn’t hurt anymore, if that makes sense, where you just learn to accept that yeah, it hurts, but you go on about it because there’s nothing you can do,” she said.

Lynch has been an elementary teacher in West Virginia.