Open in App
  • U.S.
  • Election
  • Newsletter
  • Ledger-Independent

    Soldier killed in Vietnam honored

    By Christy Hoots [email protected],

    25 days ago
    Dave Logan places a wreath at the gravesite of Billy Ray Lucas. Christy Hoots/The Ledger Independent

    A small memorial service was held to honor the memory of a fallen Vietnam War soldier recently.

    Billy Ray Lucas was one of eight children who lived in Mason County. He was only 20 years old when he was killed by a sniper during the Vietnam War in 1970.

    He is buried in the cemetery at Bethany Christian Church on Cabin Creek Road.

    Lucas was enlisted in the 101st Airborne Division, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, C. Company.

    A book, written by John Roberts, who served with Lucas, chronicles the company’s time in Vietnam, including the day Lucas was killed. In the book, Roberts refers to Lucas as “Kentucky” which was Lucas’ nickname during the war.

    According to Roberts, on May 19, 1970, the first platoon for Charlie Company was told to check out an area where they had been attacked several days earlier.

    “The point team for my squad was “Kentucky” Lucas, and his slack man was Charles “Swede” Swenson. As squad leader, I walked right behind them,” Roberts said in his book.

    Roberts said the captain for the platoon wanted them to move quickly so they were ordered to follow a big trail that led them along the southwest side of the ridge line towards the saddle between two peaks.

    “It was not safe to move down a trail we had used before, but the captain was being pressured by Battalion to move quickly through the area,” Roberts said.

    He said they came to an area covered by elephant grass and scrub brush. Lucas had stopped and looked back at Roberts before continuing.

    “I motioned for him to move to the right, around the upper edge of the clearing,” Roberts said. “He scanned the area, took one or two steps, and then they hit us. The fire sounded like it came from an RPD and, as I hit the ground, I saw Swede and Kentucky get hit. Bullets thudded into the ground and hit the trees all around me. The fire suddenly stopped and I realized I wasn’t hit. A few of us fired bursts from our M-16s but there was no return fire.”

    Roberts detailed how he was told to leave Lucas’ body behind because they were too close to the ambush. However, Roberts protested and refused to leave him there. Eventually, the captain agreed to let Roberts move Lucas’ body to a safer place.

    Recently, the company held a reunion. During that event, a wreath was decorated for Lucas. Ribbons with the names of those who served with him were attached to the wreath.

    Dave Logan, who served in the same company, but a different platoon, was the one who delivered the wreath to Lucas’ resting place in Mason County.

    Logan recounted serving in Vietnam.

    “He got there in August 1969 and I got there in January of 1970, along with his squad leader,” Logan said. “In May, we lost over half of our company between the second and the fifth. On the 18th, there was a cease-fire. It was a quiet day, which we didn’t have many of those.”

    He said they found a place to stay on May 18 and had a bit of a break.

    “We went around and visited,” he said. “Some people had stuff from home, care packages and stuff, so we all shared,” he said. “The next day, the first platoon was ordered to go out. They were on a wide trail, which is a bad sign if you’re in the jungle. That means it’s being heavily used and it’s not a good sign. They opened fire and Billy was hit and killed instantly.”

    According to Logan, his platoon was told what had happened and fell in to help.

    “When we got there, we surrounded our troops to protect them,” he said. “It was kind of dangerous to stand up at that point because we thought the enemy was still close. John and I took (Lucas) and put him on the medivac, along with Swenson. We medivaced them out of there.”

    Logan said he did not know who it was that had been hit until he arrived.

    “I knew they had been ambushed, but I didn’t know it was him,” he said. “We pretty much ran up there. I didn’t even know his name for more than 40 years, because he had “Kentucky” across his helmet in big letters. Everyone called him Kentucky, so I didn’t know his real name. Then I found out his real name and that he was from Maysville and I actually grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio.”

    Logan placed the wreath next to Lucas’ gravesite. The wreath was made by his wife.

    “There are 32 or 33 names on it,” he said.

    Several of Lucas’ surviving siblings were at the gravesite to honor their brother’s memory.

    Thelma Lucas Henderson, one of Lucas’ sisters had a notebook that her brother had carried around with him during the war. In it were his personal notes and information about what was happening during the war.

    She gave the notebook to Logan.

    “I don’t really know what it all means,” she said. “But I’m sure you do, so I wanted you to have it.”

    She said she often thinks about what his life would have been like had he survived the war.

    “I know it was a tragic loss for family,” she said. “What bothers me the most is wondering who would he have married, what would his kids have looked like.”

    Dorothy Lucas, another sister, said she was grateful for her brother being honored.

    “I feel full of love and gratefulness,” she said. “God bless those each of those boys for signing that.”

    Danny Lucas, one of the brothers, said Lucas was the reason he joined the military.

    “Well, I feel good about having the old boy down here,” he said. “(Lucas) was one of the reasons I joined the military. They killed my brother and then I joined, but the war is over.”

    Virginia Howard was also grateful for the memorial.

    “I know he went through a lot,” she said.

    Wally Lucas, one of Lucas’ brothers joked about being on-site for the memorial service but said he loved his brother.

    “I’d rather be home right now, but I love my brother to death,” he said.

    Bud Lucas is the oldest brother and was unable to make it to the memorial.

    Expand All
    Comments / 0
    Add a Comment
    Most Popular newsMost Popular

    Comments / 0