Friday, October 24, 2008

Jack Lucas

Jack Lucas led a life worthy of Ripley's Believe It or Not.

He was a big atheletic 13 year old kid when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. A few months past his 14th birthday, he lied about his age, and joined the United States Marines. It took the Marines a while to wise up to his deception- they were about to send him home, but he said, 'If you do, I'll just join the Army' So, they put him to work driving a truck in Hawaii for the next few years. They one day he *stowed*away* on a Navy transport. He turned himself in to avoid being classified as a deserter- and volunteered to join in the battle the Marine unit onboard as about to fight. The Marine officers on the transport did not know his age- he had turned 17 a few days before, so, liking his attitude, they let him. Feb. 19, 1945, he and 75,000 other Marines went ashore on a little piece of hell called Iwo Jima.

A couple of days later, he was sharing a slit trench with some other Marines when *two* Japanese grenades landed in the trench. Lucas threw himself on top of the grenades. He then caught a bit of a break. One of the grenades was a dud. The other was not. The explosion left 250 shrapnel fragments in his body, and his buddies left him for dead. Amazingly, he was still alive- although his injuries required surgery 26 different times. Jack Lucas lived to be tyhe youngest Medal of Honor winner in the history of the United States Marine Corps. After receiving the Medal of Honor from President Truman, Lucas went back to high school, to finish his senior year. (I wonder if, on the first day of class, his teacher asked him to write an essay on 'What I Did on My Summer Vacation'?)

I would have thought that that would have been enough excitement for one lifetime- but no. Jack Lucas decided that he wanted to overcome his fear of heights- so he joined the Army, and volunteered to become a paratrooper. One day, as he put it, 'He was the last guy out the plane, but the first to reach the ground'. Both his parachutes failed. Jack Lucas survived the fall. (I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall, when he had a talk with the parachute riggers: 'I wish to make a complaint...')

Jack Lucas died this past summer at the age of 80. If he were still around I think I'd ask him to pick out a lottery ticket number for me.

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