John Wayne played a war hero in numerous movies over the years. He was a great American and I, along with millions of others are great fans.
But most of John Wayne’s exploits were confined to the silver screen. For a number of years we’ve had a real life war hero living right here in our midst and he passed away this week.
Jack Lucas was the youngest Congressional Medal of Honor recipient since the War Between the States. At 14 he forged his mother’s signature and joined the Marines so he could fight the Japanese in World War II. Even after being discovered, he was so determined to serve his country in combat that at the age of 17, he stowed away on a ship headed for Iwo Jima where they finally gave in and let him hit the beach to fight.
He soon proved his mettle when a couple of enemy grenades landed in the trench he was fighting in along side his buddies. In an instant he dove on top of the grenades and absorbed an explosion that, while sparing the other men serious injury and possible death, left Jack Lucas with more than 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body puncturing every major organ. He had to endure 26 surgeries in the following months and forever carried remaining shrapnel in his body.
That didn’t stop him from joining the Army paratroopers in the 1960s where, on a training jump, both his chutes failed to open, and he free fell the entire way. He somehow walked away from that one as well.
He received the nation’s highest decoration for valor for his action on Iwo Jima. I was honored to make the acquaintance of Mr. Lucas when he introduced himself to me in a restaurant several years ago and complimented me on my Viewpoint Editorials. Indeed, it was my honor to be complimented by such a man and quite humbling. After that it was my privilege to communicate with him on several occasions.
He was the real deal. He was called “indestructible” in a book that featured his story. But no one is truly indestructible, and this week Jack Lucas, a truly great American Hero, succumbed to a long bout with cancer.
He was a great patriot and an extraordinarily courageous gentleman. We salute him.
I’m Jim Cameron and that’s today’s Viewpoint.