POWs offered
trips to Hawaii

Pfc. Jessica Lynch accepts
an invitation that is also
extended to seven other POWs

Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch has accepted an invitation to visit Hawaii, and the same offer has been extended to seven other rescued Army soldiers, a group of isle business and government officials announced yesterday.

The invitation also extends to the immediate families of the eight soldiers.

"We're happy we could help out," said Patrick Saka, general manager of the Maui News. "We're looking forward to making their dreams come true."

Saka's newspaper and its affiliate publication, the Parkersburg News & Sentinel in Lynch's home state of West Virginia, announced earlier this month that they would help to plan, organize and defray the cost of a Maui trip for the Army private.

Saka said the offer now includes a one-week vacation to Oahu and Maui, with the possibility of stops on other islands.

Lynch, 19, who was rescued April 1 by special-operations forces in a hospital near Nasiriyah, Iraq, is being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Seven soldiers were rescued April 13 when Iraqi forces abandoned their posts ahead of advancing American troops.

Shortly after her rescue, Army officials reported Lynch had fractures, including two broken legs and a broken arm. While in Germany, she reportedly underwent back surgery to repair a fracture that was pinching a nerve.

Army Sgt. Tracey Brown, a duty officer at Walter Reed, said last night that Lynch remains in satisfactory condition, undergoing occupational and physical therapy. "She and her family remain grateful for the public support, and they continue to deny all requests for interviews," Brown said.

Saka said the details, including the dates, have not been worked out, although officials said they hoped the visit would take place within a year.

A number of other agencies and businesses have announced their support, including the state, Maui County, the Maui Visitors Bureau and Continental Airlines.

Yesterday's announcement was made at Gov. Linda Lingle's office at the Capitol.

"The POWs will come to the one place where they can be revived and rejuvenated after a death-defying capture," Lingle said. "When you really want to rejuvenate yourself, heal yourself, Hawaii is a great place to come."

Maui Visitors Bureau Executive Director Marsha Wienert said her group is willing to arrange for cars, hotels, tour packages and activities.

"Businesses in Hawaii have basically come out of the woodwork in support of this -- everything from cars for them to drive when they're here, from fishing charters to luaus to the accommodations," Wienert said. "I doubt whether there's going to be a whole heck of a lot of costs involved. The sharing of aloha has just poured out."

While in Hawaii, state officials said they hope the POWs will be able to meet with members of Hawaii's military installations and their families.

"We haven't figured out all the details yet, but we hope to get the POWs and their families throughout the state," said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state director of Civil Defense.

Lynch, raised in the small town of Palestine, W.Va., was among several soldiers captured or killed on March 23 when their maintenance convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces after taking a wrong turn near Nasiriyah, south of Baghdad.

U.S. military officials were tipped off about her whereabouts by an unnamed Iraqi attorney after he witnessed her being slapped by an Iraqi military official while she was a patient in a hospital.

Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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