WWII B-24 Bomber Pilot
Patriotism of another era touted in McGregor
Saturday, April 28, 2007
By Erin QuinnTribune-Herald staff writer
McGREGOR — Their message was simple — almost cliché:
Appreciate those who fought for your country. Realize most people in the world don’t have it as good. Be proud to be an American. But in that simplicity was power. When that message was delivered Friday to the McGregor High School student body by a World War II veteran who grew up in rural Central Texas, there were signs of the message hitting home. Several students stayed long after the program to chat with 87-year-old Rosebud native Bob Lucas about his 14 missions over Nazi Germany as a bomber pilot. On one of those flights, he was shot down and his plane crashed into a field of snow. On Friday some students casually walked by to shake Lucas’ hand. And after coming into the school’s auditorium a bit ho-hum about the assembly, most left with a little more spring to their step. After all, that’s the goal of the program. Lucas tours Texas with the Free to Be... organization, a nonprofit that began about three years ago. The program tours schools with a simple message of patriotism portrayed in a 25-minute video delivered mostly by teens. “These kids don’t even know who George Washington is these days,” Lucas said. “The goal of this is to teach the kids a little about America — what it is, what it stands for and what it costs to be free. Teach them some patriotism.”
No political agenda The North Texas-based organization does not take a stance on the war and aims to be non-political, group officials say. Lucas, who previously worked in sales and management at IBM and works in real estate, graduated from Rosebud High School in 1937 and from Baylor University in 1941. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force and spent the next two years flying B-24s over Germany. His plane was shot down in 1943. No one was injured in the crash, but he was sent back to the states. Larry Tooker, a longtime friend of Lucas, produced the video and started the Free to Be… organization. He quickly got the animated Lucas involved. Some of the teenagers at Friday’s assembly have grandparents who fought in the Vietnam War. Lucas may well be the first World War II veteran most of these teens have ever met — and will ever meet. And that, McGregor High School Principal James Lenamon said, will probably stay with them long after Friday’s assembly.“They were not just able to put a face with an event, but it was the face of a gentleman from just down the road,” he said.