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Reggie Lucas, Montford Point Marine, dies
Lawrence Lucas, who was honored in June for his service as a Montford Point Marine, died over the weekend.
FILE/SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By Rusty Dennen
BACK IN JUNE, I got
He said his daughter, Cheryl Hepburn, and son-in-law, Marty, would be driving him to Washington to receive a Congressional Gold Medal for his service in the Marine Corps' first all-black unit.
The medal is the nation's highest civilian honor; George Washington was among the recipients.
I dropped by Lucas' home in Spotsylvania County for an interview a few days later. After greeting me in the driveway, he welcomed me inside and told his story of the black men who received little recognition during World War II and for long afterward.
At 88, he was articulate, with a vivid memory and a wicked sense of humor that had me wishing our two-hour visit had been longer.
Lucas grew up in segregated Fredericksburg. He shined shoes on Caroline Street in the 1930s. White boys, he recalled, "would beat me up and run me home" on a regular basis.
It was the same story on the nearby basketball court. Smiling, he said, "I'd go right back the next day and get run home again."
That was the reality of life for him then--and later.
After graduating from Virginia State College, Lucas went to Montford Point Camp at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
He spent two months there, then he and 50 other men in his unit boarded a ship in 1943 bound for what is now Tuvalu in the South Pacific. Not long after he arrived in the war zone, Japanese planes bombed the atoll.
Lucas jumped into the nearest foxhole, which was occupied by a white Marine who pulled a pistol and ordered him out.
The Montford Marines' job was to unload ships, but Lucas got one of the better positions, operating a switchboard.
There were some white Marines, including some from Fredericksburg, who treated him kindly, he recalled. After 18 months, Lucas was back in the States. He was discharged, then in 1948 joined the Reserve and was promoted to corporal.