Lynch, who wore a black suit, pink sweater and a necklace with light pink and white gemstones, said that she likes to put on a happy face.
The elementary school substitute teacher graduated with a degree in education from West Virginia University-Parkersburg in December 2011. She is working toward a master's degree in communication studies from the same university, she said.
While her students refer to her as "Mrs. Lynch" or "Dakota's mommy" -- a reference to her 6-year-old daughter -- the West Virginian said she is reminded daily of her past.
"I definitely have days where it's up and down," Lynch said. "I do wake up in the middle of the night after dreaming that some man is chasing me through the woods."
Lynch said she was a shy person when she signed up for the military at 18. Ten years later, she has become a pro at public speaking.
"I wanted to be the person who sat back in the corner and not be noticed," Lynch said. "After 10 years, it makes it easier. The biggest change I've learned is to be more vocal and go after whatever it is I'm striving to do."
Support has been key to her success, she said.
Staff Sgt. Lisa Stanley, of the West Virginia Army National Guard, said she supports Lynch because she's proud of her and all soldiers who serve. Stanley and other state Army National Guard members gathered at the center to meet Lynch.
"It's obviously important to show support for a fellow service member who went through an ordeal we could all go through," said Stanley, 30. "We're proud of the West Virginia soldier and wanted to demonstrate our support."
Like Lynch, Harts resident Charles Baisden also was awarded a Purple Heart. The Vietnam War veteran considers Lynch a hero.
"At the time, we needed something to uplift the U.S., and she was it," Baisden said. "We got Woody Williams and Jessica Lynch, and it just feels great."
Williams, a World War II veteran, is the state's only living Medal of Honor recipient.
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.