10/24/06 — Volunteer heroes: Medal of Honor recipient one of many who choose to serve

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Volunteer heroes: Medal of Honor recipient one of many who choose to serve

Jack Lucas is a hero.

At a very young age, the now-78-year-old Medal of Honor recipient decided that saving his comrades in arms was much more important than worrying about his own safety.

So, without thinking too much — there simply wasn’t time — he dove on a live grenade. Fate and a strong will saved his life.

He was 15 years old.

Lucas’s dedication to his nation did not begin there.

In fact, the whole reason he was at Iwo Jima in the first place was that he had wanted to avenge the deaths of the servicemen who died in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

His goal as he expressed it this week during a speech at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was not politically correct when you look at it through today’s lens. He simply wanted to kill Japanese.

But in the context of the time, this was a patriotic American who wanted to fight for freedom and his country — even if the presentation was a little rough around the edges.

His courage is to be admired both before the act of valor that earned him the Medal of Honor and afterwards.

Jack Lucas’s story is interesting for another reason. He was just 15 years old when he answered the call to serve his country.

He was a volunteer.

Today, we sometimes forget that our modern armed forces are made up of many volunteers, young men and women who have chosen careers in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines because they wanted to serve.

There might be other motivations for some of those who decide to put on the uniform — benefits later, a chance to learn a skill. But when it comes time for battle or defending their nation, these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are there to serve a nation they love and to do a job they are well-qualified to handle.

And that is a form of courage all its own.

Listening to Jack Lucas’s story is a chance to remember what it was like when the world fought a war and Americans did not know if thousands of their husbands, sons and brothers would ever come home.

It is a chance for us to honor those who sacrificed so much for us so long ago. Jack Lucas probably would dedicate the medal he wears today to all those who did not make it home.

But as we remember, we should also honor those who are continuing that tradition of service — that next generation of volunteers.

Published in Editorials on October 24, 2006 11:13 AM