I once wrote an article about the Japanese changing the name of Iwo Jima to Iwo To. See Iwo Jima. In my opinion, it didn't matter what they wanted to call it, we would never forget the sacrifices made by our young men on this far away island and that would always be known as Iwo Jima.
When I noticed this name on a website recently, I looked closer at the story... a story on the passing of another man that it would have been an honor to know, a real American hero.
Briefly, here is some information about Jack Lucas USMC:
Although only 14 years of age, having a muscular build, 5 ft 8 in tall and weighing 180 pounds, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve without his mother's consent on August 6, 1942. He gave his age as 17, and went to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina for recruit training.
During his rifle training, Pvt. Lucas qualified as a sharpshooter. He was next assigned to the Marine Barracks and Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. In June 1943, he was transferred to the 21st Replacement Battalion at New River, North Carolina, and one month later he went to the 25th Replacement Battalion, where he successfully completed schooling which qualified him as a heavy machine gun crewman.
He left the continental United States and joined the 6th Base Depot of the V Amphibious Corps at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
With statements to his buddies that he was going to join a combat organization, PFC Lucas walked out of camp on January 10, 1945, wearing a khaki uniform and carrying his dungarees and field shoes in a roll under his arm.
He was declared absent without leave (AWOL) when he failed to return that night and a month later, when there was still no sign of him, he was declared a "deserter", and a reward was offered for his apprehension. He was also reduced to the rank of private at that time.
Where was he? He had stowed away on board USS Deuel, which was transporting units of the 5th Marine Division into combat. He surrendered to the senior troop officer present dressed in neat, clean dungarees. He was allowed to remain, and shortly after he was transferred to Headquarters Company, 5th Marine Division. He reached his 17th birthday while at sea, six days before the heroic actions at Iwo Jima, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On the day following the landing at Iwo Jima, he was creeping through a twisting ravine with three other men of his rifle team when the Japanese opened a hand grenade attack on them. The men jumped into two shallow foxholes. Lucas pushed a thrown hand grenade into the volcanic ash and covered it with his helmet and his body. His companions left him for dead, although he was miraculously still alive. Severely wounded in the right arm and wrist, right leg and thigh, and chest, Pvt. Lucas had undoubtedly saved his companions from serious injury and possible death.
He was evacuated to the hospital ship Samaritan, and then treated at various field hospitals prior to his arrival in San Francisco, California on March 28, 1945. He eventually underwent 21 surgeries. For the rest of his life, there remained about 200 pieces of metal, some the size of 22 caliber bullets, in Lucas' body — which set off airport metal detectors.
The mark of desertion was removed from his record in August of that year while he was a patient at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Charleston, South Carolina. He was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve because of disability resulting from his wounds on September 18, 1945, following his reappointment to the rank of Private First Class.
On October 5, 1945, Lucas and 14 other sailors and Marines (including Pappy Boyinton) were presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. In attendance at the ceremony were Lucas' mother and General George Patton, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, PFC Lucas was awarded the Purple Heart; Presidential Unit Citation; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star; American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
On August 3, 2006, Lucas, along with 15 living Marine Medal of Honor recipients, was presented the Medal of Honor flag by Commandant of the Marine Corps General Michael Hagee. The presentation took place at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. in front of over 1,000, including family, friends, and Marines. Lucas said of the ceremony, "To have these young men here in our presence — it just rejuvenates this old heart of mine. I love the Corps even more knowing that my country is defended by such fine young people."
Jack Lucas died at a hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on June 5, 2008 of Leukemia with wife Ruby by his side. He had earned a business degree from High Point University, and had also later served in the U.S. Army in the 1960s as a paratrooper to conquer his fear of heights. He survived a training jump in which both parachutes did not open.
This is just one of the stories from that great conflict and our country's history. Yes, it was a different time then, the public and the media were behind our men and woman but they were also supportive of their mission. There was no thought of praising our warriors but denigrating their purpose. Politicians and the public alike supported our people in word and deed. All gladly went without so our troops could have more.
Yes, it was a different time but don't tell me we don't make men like this anymore, I know we do.
Click here for Ross McGinnis story
They are serving us now in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Only now, women who also serve, join them in harm's way, and also now, they are all volunteers. It is too late for us to thank Jack Lucas and so many of his fellow servicemen and women from that era but not the men and women, and their families, who serve us today. We owe them our gratitude and so much more.
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