The Hero Among Us
Guest Blog by William Gilchrist
I spent the summer at High Point University as a member of the Summer Experience Program when I picked up the habit of studying in Smith library. I go there often and there is always a curious display that catches my eye. Off to the left side of the library, stands a humble memorial to an American hero. In a brown stained wooden case with large glass windows sit some mementos to a great man — a faded Marine Corps flag, tributes, awards and photographs. Resting in the middle, and tying the whole display together, sits the most distinguished award that Congress can award a serviceman of this great nation. The Congressional Medal of Honor belonged to former marine, High Point College student, and local hero, Jacklyn (Jack) Harold Lucas.
I was honestly astonished when I first approached this display and learned of its content, and what it represents. Lucas was only fourteen when he enlisted in the Marines in World War II, without his mother’s consent. I would not have been even remotely mature enough to make a decision like that at that age. Lucas would go on to serve in the Pacific theatre during the war, seeing combat particularly at Iwo Jima. During an engagement in trenches near an airfield, two grenades landed close to Lucas and his three man fire-team. Selflessly and without thought, he flung his body on top of the grenades and absorbed the full blast. He survived, and on October 5th 1945, became the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Civil War. He was only 17 years old.
Following his war service, Lucas continued his education at High Point College, and remained very humble about his war experiences. It still amazes me to realize that most of the men who fought in WWII were just kids. They realized what was at risk, and they knew what needed to be done. Lucas truly was a member of the “greatest generation” – a generation that was so quick to give, and so selfless.
I learned all this just from seeing the Lucas display in Smith library, and it just goes to show that even in a college library in North Carolina, you can find incredible stories about great people.
It makes me wonder what other secrets this library might hold.