WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman released his latest interview in his ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the service and sacrifice of Arkansas veterans. This spotlight highlights the military service of Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Kenneth Lucas who served in WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Lucas was born in Scranton, Arkansas on July 17, 1925. He grew up with four younger sisters.
After graduating from high school, Lucas attended Arkansas Tech in Russellville for the spring semester in 1941 before heading to Chicago to work in a steel mill for the summer. Instead of reenrolling for the fall semester, on September 15, 1941 Lucas volunteered his service to the U.S. Army.
He had three months of basic training in the medical field at Camp Barkeley, Texas and learned from an instructor he admired from the silver screen, Lew Ayres, an actor who starred in the movie “All Quite on the Western Front.”
“They assigned him to the medical core. It wasted his talent, because he was teaching us – out of all things – how to make a bed,” Lucas recalls.
After basic training, Lucas was sent to William Beaumont Army Hospital in El Paso, Texas, for veterinary school. Upon completion, he was assigned to a veterinary hospital where he took critical care of horses from the first cavalry division Army Medical Veterinary Corps.
After WWII, Lucas received his degree from Arkansas State Teacher’s College, now the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and taught vocational agriculture veteran farming at Lonoke High School.
On March 13, 1951, Lucas was called back in to active duty for service in the Korean War. One of his assignments during the was was to provide medical care to the prisoners of war (POWs).
“We had a lot of responsibility and cared for the prisoners. There happened to be another American hospital there but their commission was to care for the soldiers. So if we got sick in the prison we had to go to another place to get treatment. While I was there I had an emergency appendectomy,” Luscas said.
He continued military service during the Vietnam War. As a Medic, Lucas witnessed battlefield casualties and faced great struggles finding a job at the end of his tour.
“I worked a while as a carpenter. At this time, the general population of the United States could not accept the Vietnam conflict. There were demonstrations, and by being a military person, I was almost a banned individual. And I encountered the difficulty of trying to get jobs in my profession. I went to a place in Little Rock that had an opening, and I went through the interview and he said ‘Well, I know you are qualified and I know you would do a good job, but I just don’t have anything to do with the military,’” Lucas says.
“LTC Kenneth Lucas’ long and distinguished career in the military is admirable. I am grateful for his years of service and leadership to our country. I am proud of this opportunity to share his memories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Lucas’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.