PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Ingalls Shipbuilding laid the keel Thursday for a ship that will be named after the youngest serviceman in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor, Hattiesburg native Capt. Jack H. Lucas.
What will become the USS Jack H. Lucas celebrated a keel authentication, the official start of construction, on Thursday morning. Now that the keel has been truly and fairly laid, the goal of building a ship that honors and embodies its namesake can finally begin.
“Jack will be back in battle, here his spirit has always lived, fighting for America," said Gov. Phil Bryant during his remarks at the authentication ceremony. “Jack was a dear friend of mine. He was the youngest Medal of Honor recipient on Iwo Jima. He snuck into the service, the Marines, at the age of 14 by signing his mother’s name to the enlistment papers. So, today is an honor to know that we are laying the keel for the Jack H. Lucas, a DDG Destroyer, as Jack would say, that would go and kill our enemies."
Lucas’ dedication to his country and fellow man was without doubt.
“Jack was a warrior. Here is a man who snuck onto a ship so he could get into combat when a lot of people were trying to stay away. He threw himself atop two hand grenades, in a fox hole, to save three other Marines on Iwo Jima, so it’s gotta be a warship, gotta be a destroyer. Jack would be awful proud to know his name is gonna go around the world protecting those and defending the liberties throughout our world as we know it," Bryant said.
Lucas’ personality, according to his family, is what they hope lives on in the vessel.
“You know, nobody wants to lose their loved one, but with the personality that Jack had, my grandfather, you just want to see it continue. You want everybody to know the same thing we knew about him. He really did, he loved the Marine Corps, he loved America and we want to share that with everybody," said Lucas’ granddaughter Tara Gonsorcik.
That same sense of pride is poured into the ship not only by its namesake but also by the men and women welding the steel.
“The ships that leave here do defend the country and their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters may actually serve on one of them. So, we want to make sure they’re the best warships in the world, and it’s really an honor and a privilege to build them to defend our country and defend our families," said Brian Cuccias, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding.
Commissioning for the USS Jack H. Lucas is set to take place in 2023.