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Merkel Veteran Honored For Service In Elite Military Group

(Photo by Joy Bonala)  Ivy Paul Lucas joins in a game of Bingo while his niece and care-giver, Jeaneatte Pursley, serves him water and coffee Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at the Merkel Nursing Center.
(Photo by Joy Bonala) Ivy Paul Lucas joins in a game of Bingo while his niece and care-giver, Jeaneatte Pursley, serves him water and coffee Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at the Merkel Nursing Center.

At 96 years old, certain memories escape Ivy Paul Lucas, but others remain clear. He remembers growing up with 10 brothers and one sister on a cotton farm in West Texas. He also recalls some of his experiences on the battlefields in World War II when he served in the First Special Service Force.

His niece and care-giver, Jeanette Pursley, helps him by retelling the stories he told her about those years of service.

“They had to be smart, they had to be tough, they had to be resilient or they didn’t take them in there,” Pursley said as she patted his knee. “So that’s what you were Uncle, that’s what you were.”

Lucas was among 1800 U.S. soldiers selected to serve in the First Special Service Force, an elite group that would later evolve into specialized forces known today as Green Berets, Delta Force and the Navy Seals.

The group was invited to Washington D.C. last year to be honored with a Congressional Gold Medal but at the time, Lucas was not well enough to travel. Because he missed the ceremony, military personnel from Fort Hood will host a reception in his honor on Saturday at the Merkel Nursing Center where he lives now, not far from where he grew up in Noodle. His early upbringing prepared him for the hardships and intensity he would face in the Army.

“On the farm they all worked from the time they were big enough to work,” Pursley said. “He had a good work ethic, he knew what to do when he got into the army.”

He went to Fort Harrison near Helena, Montana for training in hand-to-hand combat, rock-climbing and the use of explosives for demolition. Lucas remembers learning to ski for mountain warfare, and his first experience parachuting.

He laughs when he thinks about his first time jumping from an airplane but he also tears up and stays quiet when other experiences come back.

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(Photo courtesy of Jeanette Pursley) Ivy Paul Lucas served in the U.S. First Special Service Force during World War II.

He fought in Naples, Rome and the Aleutian Islands before being discharged due to a severe skin problem. By the time he was discharged, the War was nearly over.

His memories are fading and most of his comrades are gone but Pursley is determined to pass on her uncle’s legacy. She’s a retired teacher and still subs in high school classes.

“Every day at school they say the pledge, but some of them don’t say it,” Pursley said.  

She tells the students about her uncle and about the sacrifices men and women like him made to keep this country free.

“I say, you need to say the pledge and you need to kiss the flag every day because the ones who went before us made it happen for us,” Pursley said.