On June 5, 2008 -- the day before the 64th anniversary of D-Day -- an 80-year-old veteran passed away at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In the far-off days of his youth, when his country became enmeshed in the Second World War, he leapt into the fray, lying about his age so he could join the Marine Corps at the age of 14. Just days after his 17th birthday, he fought at Iwo Jima, where he performed a deed that very nearly cost him his life, and that would make him the youngest Marine ever to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is awarded only to one who has risked his life in a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty, so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the recipient from his comrades. Of the millions of Americans who have worn their country's uniform since the Medal of Honor was created in 1862, fewer than 3,500 have been awarded this highest honor.
Here is the full text of Jack Lucas' Congressional Medal of Honor citation.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division. Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 20 February 1945. Entered service at: Norfolk, Va. Born: 14 February 1928, Plymouth, N.C. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 20 February 1945. While creeping through a treacherous, twisting ravine which ran in close proximity to a fluid and uncertain frontline on D-plus-1 day, Pfc. Lucas and 3 other men were suddenly ambushed by a hostile patrol which savagely attacked with rifle fire and grenades. Quick to act when the lives of the small group were endangered by 2 grenades which landed directly in front of them, Pfc. Lucas unhesitatingly hurled himself over his comrades upon 1 grenade and pulled the other under him, absorbing the whole blasting forces of the explosions in his own body in order to shield his companions from the concussion and murderous flying fragments. By his inspiring action and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice, he not only protected his comrades from certain injury or possible death but also enabled them to rout the Japanese patrol and continue the advance. His exceptionally courageous initiative and loyalty reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Lucas and the U.S. Naval Service.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.