More than 600 attend WWII hero’s funeral

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More than 600 people attended Monday’s funeral for World War II hero Jack Lucas, who at 17 was the youngest Marine to receive the nation’s highest military honor.

Among those in attendance were five of Lucas’ fellow Medal of Honor recipients, who remembered him as a genuine patriot.

“As Jack liked to tell us, ‘It’s not what I did, it’s what we did,’” said retired Maj. Gen. James Livingston, one of the Medal of Honor recipients in attendance.

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The world first learned of Jacklyn H. Lucas when word spread of his heroic deeds in the 1945 battle at Iwo Jima, one of the war’s bloodiest battles.

Lucas lied his way into the Marines at 14, stowed away on a ship bound for combat in the Pacific Ocean at 16 and met his first president at 17 when Harry Truman greeted him and others during a Medal of Honor ceremony in 1945.

Lucas received the medal after using his body to shield his comrades from grenades during a fire fight with the Japanese. He somehow survived when one exploded, but he was left with 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body and a lifetime of pain and health problems.

Lucas feared he’d be left for dead, but a Corpsman saved him. That Corpsman did not make it through the battle.

Outspoken and full of stories, Lucas made friends throughout the world and was viewed as an inspiration by soldiers in each military branch.

Livingston called Lucas “a remarkable and affable man.”

“We owe him a great debt,” he said.

Lucas’ funeral was held in Hattiesburg, where he lived for nearly 20 years after falling on hard times. He is survived by his wife, Ruby; five children; and 13 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Perhaps the person who knew him best was D.K. Drum, who helped him write his autobiography, “Indestructible.”

“He never gave less than his all,” Drum said, “whether a warrior in battle or representing his nation’s fallen heroes, helping a friend in need or fighting cancer until the end.”