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UC ROTC Cadet/War Veteran Looks Ahead to a Career of Military Service

Eric Lucas, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, will be recognized at the Nov. 9 UC ceremony to honor the nation’s veterans.

Date: 11/5/2007
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre (Iraq photo supplied by Eric Lucas)
UC ingot Eric Lucas says he enlisted in the U.S. Army while he was still in high school, underwent basic training just after his high school graduation and went on active duty in October, 2000, just short of a year before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that rocked the nation.

Eric Lucas

On March 26, 2003, as a Sky Soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, he joined the brigade’s largest mass combat jump since World War II, when the 173rd Airborne seized an airfield in Bashur to bring in U.S. support and to bolster Iraqi defenses in Northern Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Now, back home in his native Cincinnati, Lucas is a junior English major at the University of Cincinnati McMicken College of Arts & Sciences and is a cadet with the UC Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He says his experience at UC is providing him with the skills he needs to become a military leader.

At a University of Cincinnati ceremony at 10 a.m., Friday, Nov. 9, on McMicken Commons, Lucas will be one of six veterans who will represent the men and women who served or are serving the nation in times of piece and in times of war, as the university pays tribute to the contributions and sacrifices of all of the nation’s veterans. The UC Veterans Day Ceremony is sponsored by the Army/Air Force ROTC, UC Student Government, MainStreet and UC Governmental Relations & University Communications.

The ceremony will remember U.S. veterans who served in all wars and will honor an individual veteran symbolizing veterans still surviving from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom. A fellow Army ROTC cadet, Abigail Edwards, will represent the veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Growing up in a patriotic family, Lucas says family members always emphasized to him that Veterans Day was a day of honor. “It’s a day to honor not only the people who died for their country, but also anyone who has ever served or is serving. It’s a day of honor and remembrance,” he says.

Iraq
Eric Lucas, right, fellow soldier Nathan Williams, left, and Iraqi ally Mustafa, center

Lucas says he takes special pride in serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and its history, which, according to the brigade’s official Web site, includes flying with 87th Reconnaissance Troop during World War II and becoming the first major ground combat unit to be deployed to Vietnam.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Lucas says his unit served in Bashur for three-and-a-half weeks before setting up main operations in Kirkuk. He says the American troops were working to help families take back their homes after they lost them a decade ago under the oppressive regime. “When we came into the city, we were on two big, flatbed trucks, and it was mayhem. People were waving at us and waving flags with ‘Rocky’ on them, and all of them were honking their horns,” he says.

During that initial invasion into northern Iraq, nine of the brigade’s sky soldiers died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lucas says one of them was killed when the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) began in the conflict.

Lucas

As a sky solider who was part of the reactivation of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Lucas says he “takes a lot of pride in the unit I was in. We went from a bunch of new privates to combat-ready soldiers in a year.” Stationed in Italy for four years, Lucas was wrapping up his tour of duty when he decided he wanted to advance through the ranks of the military by advancing his education. He eventually plans to return to active duty and is interested in serving in the infantry.

Lucas now serves as a member of the 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment of the Ohio National Guard.


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