CULLOWHEE — As the world watched prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch arrive at an air base in Germany on Tuesday, April 1, after her dramatic rescue in Iraq, the family of Western Carolina University graduate and U.S. Air Force Capt. Tracee Putnam Ray looked on with special pride. Ray, 30, an Air Force doctor and a 1994 graduate of Western with a degree in chemistry, was the attending physician and head of the critical care air transport team that flew Lynch to Ramstein, Germany.
Ray’s sister, Ann Putnam Johnson, associate dean of applied sciences at WCU, has been in contact with her sister through e-mail and by telephone since Tuesday’s events. “She’s just fine,” said Johnson. “She wanted to know if I had seen her on TV.”
Clovie Putnam of Waynesville, mother of Capt. Ray and Dr. Johnson, said that Ray was “very happy when they asked her to fly with Pfc. Lynch to Germany.” Putnam last saw her daughter shortly before Christmas when the family was able to spend a week together in Waynesville. Ray is stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Bakersfield, Calif., where she lives with her husband, Jason, and children Emelyn, Amelia and Silas.
Dr. Johnson, also a graduate of Western, is very proud of her sister. “It’s hard to put into words what it means that someone from Haywood County who attended Western would end up on national TV. It just goes to show that Western’s graduates keep making a difference all around the world.”