Monday, May 31, 2010

A Giant Hero

While you are all probably aware of the story of Pat Tillman, who gave up an NFL career and his life fighting for his country, there were others who did the same back in World War II.

Here's the story of a guy named Jack Lummus, who most probably have never heard about.

Make that 1st Lt. Jack Lummus, an American hero.
This weekend, let’s think of Jack Lummus. A star athlete at Baylor, Lummus might have made a living — and a name to remember — as an offensive end for the New York Giants. He played nine games for the Giants in 1941, his rookie year. But then, World War II.

Lummus enlisted in the Marines. As an athlete, a college man and an older man — he was 25 — he soon became 1st Lt. Lummus.

On Feb. 19, 1945, he was among the first wave to hit the black volcanic sand of Iwo Jima. For days, that first wave of men dug in, fought, advanced, dug in, advanced, dug in again — and died. Although it’s reasonable to believe that on that day when the American flag was raised on Mt. Suribachi — Feb. 23 — the battle for Iwo Jima had ended, it had barely begun.

On March 8, Lummus, commanding a rifle platoon, had already been wounded in a shoulder and twice been knocked flat by grenade concussions when he rose to lead three successful assaults on entrenched positions. Pressing a fourth assault, a land mine blew off his legs; He was mortally wounded. Yet he continued to command his men.

Jack Lummus was 29.

And Iwo Jima was still 18 days from won.

Iwo Jima produced 27 Medal of Honor recipients, 14 posthumously. Lummus’ mother accepted her son’s Medal of Honor on May 30, 1946 — 64 years ago this Sunday.

Jack Lummus is buried near his boyhood home in Ennis, Texas. His tombstone simply reads, “Jack Lummus, Medal of Honor, 1st Lt., US Marine Corps, World War II, Oct. 23, 1915, Mar. 8, 1945.” Not much, but plenty.

Lummus’ commanding officer wrote this to his mother: “Jack suffered very little for he didn’t live long. I saw Jack soon after he was hit. With calmness, serenity and complacency, Jack said, ‘The New York Giants have lost a good man.’ We all lost a good man.”

Perhaps we now know about a man we’d never heard of, thus this weekend, if only for a minute, he’s a man we might think about, a man we might remember to remember on Memorial Day weekend.

Last week, I turned 58. Lummus was 29. I’ve lived twice as long as Jack Lummus.

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