To her best friend Miriah Duckworth, Jessi Lynch is everything from a not-so-aspiring athlete to a beauty queen, reports Jane Clayson.
"She could throw up her hair up and look gorgeous, go out and win Ms. Congeniality," says Duckworth.
To her father Greg, she is a source of pride.
"She's a wonderful girl. Always put others before herself in any situation," he says.
And to the U.S. Army, she is Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a supply clerk, one of thousands of women now serving in the war. But after a fierce battle last Saturday night, March 23, near the southern city of Nasiriyah, Jessi became one of only two women officially listed as missing in action.
"It kind of crushes you, you know you try to keep hope then and keep our spirits high but everyday goes on and its you know, harder. Real hard," says Greg Lynch.
Jessi was in a supply convoy that was ambushed, leaving 13 soldiers missing or taken prisoner -- among them single mother Shoshana Johnson.
Back in her hometown of Palestine, W. Va., Jenny Baileys says no one was prepared to hear that news.
"I didn't believe it, because I thought, 'What are the chances of her being taken?' And then I sorta had a moment praying and then we got together with our friends and prayed and we decided God's gonna take care of her, she's gonna be okay," says Baileys.
Jessi had always talked about the possibility of going to war.
"She knew someday that it would eventually happen and she said I've been trained to do it. We have a job to do, let's do it," says Greg Lynch.
In fact, it's a job more and more women are doing. Today, 200,000 women serve in the U.S. armed forces.
But ex-Navy Captain Lory Manning says much of the American public is still struggling to accept women as warriors, especially after hearing the news of MIAs Jessi Lynch and Pvt. Lori Piestewa and seeing the video of POW Shoshana Johnson.
"We have this idea that women stay at home and men go to war," says Manning.
Her initial reaction to seeing Shoshana's pictures as a POW, "Was oh my gosh, you know, let's start praying for her right now. I could feel the fear."
She hopes it won't change the way America thinks about the role of women in the military.
"We have women POWS now, women missing. But we also have hundreds and thousands of women over there doing extraordinary heroic work," says Manning.
Like many young Americans, Jessi lynch believed serving her country was also a way to get ahead in life - with job prospects in a small West Virgina town of 900 hard to come by. Jessi wanted to save the money she made in the army and put herself through college. And then she wanted to come back here to Palestine to fulfill a dream - a dream far from the battlefields of Iraq.
Lynda Davies, Jessi's kindergarten teacher, says Jessi's dream was to teach in her spot.
Davies says Jessie was a quiet student. But just over a week ago, Lynda received a letter from Jessi in Kuwait asking if she could be pen pals with Davies' class.
"I hope you get back to your house soon," says one of the letters ready to be sent to Jessi.
This is a sentiment that all of Jessi's friends and family are praying for.
"I think she's in a fox hole waiting to be rescued," says Davies.
Jessi's friends have faith that she will return.
"I think if you have faith and truly believe in something there can be miracles," says Duckworth.
"I count the hours and think what's Jessi doing? She maybe is sitting in a cell somewhere in a dark room and if I can only just think hard enough to get to here, maybe she'll hear I'm talking to here. I know she has faith," says Jenny Baileys.
And when she returns and walks up the driveway, "she's gonna get one big hug for hours, but she'll be there, she will, she will be here, I feel it," says her father.
Donations to a fund for Jessica Lynch can be sent to:
care of West Banco
Elizabeth, WV 26143