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Spotsylvania man, others who were part of Marine Corps' first black unit, to be honored by Congress
New recruits drill at Montford Point, the first training camp established for black U.S. Marines. The first 1,200 volunteers enlisted in 1942.
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He was glad he didn't move to Houston's unit: "They went straight to Saipan and Iwo Jima and got tore up."
After the war, Lucas returned to Camp Pendleton and was discharged. He earned Good Conduct and Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medals for his service.
In 1948, he enlisted in the reserves and was promoted to corporal. He was called back to active duty in 1950, expecting to go to Korea, but stayed stateside, and contracted tuberculosis.
"I spent two years, four months in a VA hospital," he said. He was discharged again and took a job as a truck driver at Quantico.
By then, he had met and married his wife, Francis, a longtime teacher, who died last July after a decades-long battle with lupus. They were married 55 years and had one daughter. Lucas has two children by a previous marriage.
He worked at Quantico for 28 years, retiring as supply manager at the Marine Corps Air Facility.
Lucas also worked at the National Bank of Fredericksburg, and as a barber--he still has a chair in his garage.
He says he still keeps in touch with some of the Montford Point Marines. Four others from the Fredericksburg area--Carl Sharperson of Spotsylvania, Thomas and Jerry Taylor of Fredericksburg and Booker Johnson of King George County--have all passed away.
Cheryl Hepburn, Lucas' daughter, says her father talked about his times at Montford Point, moments of discrimination and triumph, and his wartime service. One thing that he passed along from that experience: "You have to treat people the way you want to be treated."
She says the upcoming recognition for her father and his fellow black Marines is long overdue, "especially for someone in the service who puts his life on the line, particularly when they weren't wanted to begin with."
Lucas says he's looking forward to seeing others from the unit in Washington.
"I've always been proud of being a Marine," he said.
Looking back, "We were looked upon as not being able to do what white Marines could do. This has proved that, given the opportunity, a black person can do anything that anybody else can."For more about Lucas, see historian and teacher Charles Harrell's military history website: http://harrellshistory.org:443/peresonal/vets/lu cas/lucasinterview.html
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order beginning the integration of the armed forces. Between 1942 and 1949, some 20,000 black Marines trained at Montford Point Camp, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. According to the Montford Point Marine Association, of that number, about 400 are still living.For more on the unit, visit montford pointmarines.com.
The Marine Corps will host the Montford Point Marines with a reception and parade June 27 at the Marine Barracks in Washington. They will receive bronze replicas of a specially designed Congressional Gold Medal in an invitation-only ceremony at the Capitol Visitor Center at 3 p.m.