Jack Lucas, who forged his mother's signature on an enlistment document so he could join the military at 14 during World War II and who became the youngest Marine to receive the Medal of Honor.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Lucas was a 13-year-old cadet captain at Edwards Military Institute in the small town of Salemburg, N.C.
"They though I was only an eighth-grader, but I would not settle for watching from the sidelines when the United States was in such desperate need of support from its citizens," he said.
After he joined the Marines, military censors discovered his actual age when he wrote a letter to his girlfriend, who was 15. When they threatened to send him home, he said he would just join the Army. The Marines had assigned Lucas to the relatively safe job of driving a transport truck in Hawaii when he jumped a troop ship bound for Iwo Jima.
Three years after joining the Marines, Lucas was stationed at a supply depot in Hawaii when he stowed away on a ship headed to Iwo Jima because he was afraid he would never see combat, he later recalled. On Feb. 20, 1945, six days after he turned 17, Lucas was fighting Japanese soldiers in a trench during the Battle of Iwo Jima when he dived on top of two grenades and pushed them deep into the beach's volcanic ash to shield three other Marines from harm.
"I didn't think. I just immediately reacted and did what I had to do," Lucas said. One of the grenades exploded. Lucas suffered near-fatal injuries and underwent more than 20 operations over the following months. More than 200 bits of metal remained embedded in his body.
For his actions, Lucas was presented the Medal of Honor by President Truman on October 1945 in a ceremony on the White House lawn.
Who are they? Who would do such a thing? They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandfathers, friends, neighbors, classmates and co-workers. They come from all backgrounds, every geographical area and from all walks of life. Some enlist right out of high school. Some enlist after a national crisis such as 9/11 or World War II. Some have former careers but gave them up to serve this nation. Some join the Military because their dad and their grand dad served. But what they have in common is their sense of duty, of wanting to make a real difference/impact, a need to step outside of themselves for the greater good of all. They want to protect. So they make the necessary sacrifices and decide to serve.
All these men and women over the decades, are our American soldiers. And while they have all joined for different reasons and some of the same reasons, I believe you will also find in varying degrees, a common thread of true patriotism among them.
Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a National holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American Veterans, living or deceased, but especially gives thanks to living Veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
In this nation, instead of honoring our Veterans in every sense possible, we do a large disservice to the men and women who sacrificed themselves for this country. It's a national disgrace.
There are some is 20.6 suicides every day. Of those, 16.8 are Veterans and 3.8 are active-duty servicemembers, guardsmen and reservists. That amounts to 6,132 Veterans and 1,387 active Servicemembers who die by suicide in just one year.
There are approximately on any given night 40,056 homeless Veterans in this country.
America’s homeless Veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq and the Military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless Veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
About 1.4 million other Veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness, extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care, a large number of displaced and at-risk Veterans live with lingering effects of post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse issues, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Additionally, Military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some Veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. Many of our Vets have sustained serious disabilities while serving such as losing one or more limbs, losing one or more eyes, incurring traumatic brain injuries, becoming a paraplegic or a quadriplegic and an entire host of other physical issues.
The most effective programs for homeless and at risk Veterans is not our government sadly, and even worse, not the Veterans Administration as it should be, but it's the community based, started by one individual or a small group, nonprofit, Veterans helping Veterans groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow Veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves in a safe and secure environment.
So I ask that all of you...............
Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless Veteran service providers. Contact your mayor’s office for a list of providers, or search the NCHV database.
Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in attacking this issue.
Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are, there is one in your community. If not, this could be the time to bring people together around this critical need.
Make a donation to your local homeless Veteran service provider.
Volunteer. Find the various organizations in your city that provide various programs for Veterans and volunteer your time and energy to help them in their efforts.
Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless Veterans.
Never forget or abandon our Warriors.