A life

Jackie Mantey

Navy Corpsman saved troops from bombs, parents from worry

“Lucas W.A. Emch”

A February baby born and raised in Ohio. A childhood scattered with baseball bats, history books and lots of love.

He studied political science at the University of Akron for a year and was a “raging liberal.” But nothing could change his fierce loyalty to a country he loved and its people he would never meet.

What did change Emch’s life was a story about a solider who died in Iraq. That marine joined the fight to help pay for school. That marine died for a college education Emch was getting without having to risk that kind of sacrifice, and to him that was unacceptable.

A mother’s child, who couldn’t stand the thought of blood, was soon in Iraq in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, disarming improvised explosive devices and providing medical care to the wounded as a Navy corpsman. As a Devil Doc.

Many marines know they’re alive because of Emch. When an 8-year-old Iraqi boy was fighting for his life in a hospital bed, Emch’s blue eyes were watching over him.

Killed March 2, 2007, not even a month after his 21st birthday. A makeshift bomb exploded in the al-Anbar province two hours before he was supposed to come home.


Home to Sandy Lake Road where his dog Sophie jumps with love on everyone who walks through the front door. Home to where his senior picture sits at Tallmadge High School. Home to the friends he made there.

Turn-on: baseball. Turn-off: shopping. Also called: hero, patriot, badass, love.

There are so many stories: Luke visiting Youngstown, going on road trips, sitting for hours on furniture in department stores. A local circle of friends now has a gaping void of a voice they miss dearly. He was the center of attention — quick with an intelligent opinion, quick with a joke.


A son who made his family laugh in a way they never will again.

His best weapon was always his sense of humor — one of those rare individuals who could get a witty one-liner out in a split second. He was a master of impersonations, the best being Kronk from “The Emperor’s New Groove.”

Lukey was a Cheesehead of the Green Bay variety. You can thank his father for that one. You can blame a bomb for the fact that a father now has to tell his son the Packers’ score through a Facebook wall post.

A son who didn’t want his family to worry. He was intensely protective, telling them he wasn’t going out on missions and that, actually, he was a little bored.

A soldier whose smile radiates from the frame on the wall at a mother and a father and a sister left clinging to the memories, the photos, his voice on the answering machine.

A mother and a father and a sister with cracks in their hearts.

Contact public affairs reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected].