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World War I Soldier posthumously receives Silver Star

By Dani Johnson | FORT CARSON PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE | August 17, 2017

FORT CARSON, Colo. — In May 1917, just one month after the U.S. declared war on Germany, a young Pleasant Lake, Indiana, man enlisted in the Army and served until his discharge in July 1919.

     The family of the World War I Soldier, Sgt. Keith N. Lacey, received posthumous awards to include the Silver Star that were never given to Lacey upon his discharge during a ceremony Aug. 4 at the Elkhorn Conference Center on Fort Carson.

     “We (the children of Keith Lacey) grew up never recognizing that we were living with a true American hero,” said retired Air Force Col. Nick Lacey, the youngest son. “He was one of the elite, participating in every battle from December 1917 to November 1918.”

     Within seven months of enlisting, Keith Lacey landed on the shores of France joining the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Wounded in May 1918 from a gas attack, Lacey remained on the battlefield in France and fought to the end of the war and occupation of Germany.

     “Wounded, he pushed himself to the physical limits,” Nick Lacey said. “He had difficulty breathing but did what every motivated, gung ho NCOs do and pushed on.”

     During his service, he participated in the Montdidier-Noyon Offensive, the Aisne-Marne Counter Offensive, the St. Mihiel Offensive and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

     Due to his exposure to warfare gas in May 1918 and the inadequacy of medical science at the time to properly treat Soldiers who experienced gas warfare, his health failed almost immediately after he returned home from France. Keith Lacey eventually contracted tuberculosis. In 1922, he was sent to Colorado and treated at Fort Lyons Veterans Bureau Hospital in Las Animas.

     Against medical advice, in 1924, he moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he met his future wife, Ruth Mathis. In 1930, the family moved to Fountain, Colorado, where they stayed until his death Jan. 22, 1977. He and his wife raised eight children.

     While active duty, Keith Lacey was in the 16th Regiment, 1st Inf. Div., which is now 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., at Fort Riley, Kansas. The family decided to have the ceremony at Fort Carson since more than 90 of his descendants live in Colorado, primarily in the Colorado Springs area.

     “It’s an incredible honor to be a Soldier and see the legacy that sits in this room,” said Lt. Col. Jon Meredith, commander, 1st Bn., 16th Inf. Reg., who traveled from Fort Riley for the ceremony. “The service embodied in this room is incredible and awe inspiring.

     “Every time a 16th Infantry Soldier puts on his uniform, they honor Sgt. Lacey,” Meredith said. “The only reason we know how to win is because of Soldiers like Sgt. Lacey.”

      Lacey’s children requested military information on their father through U.S. Army Human Resources Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was determined he was never awarded the medals earned while in the war.

     Keith Lacey’s sons, retired Sgt. 1st Class Pat Lacey, who retired in 1970 as a mess sergeant and served in Korea and Vietnam, and Col. Nick Lacey, who retired in 1990 and had received a Silver Star for actions as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, accepted the following medals on behalf of the family: Silver Star; Purple Heart; World War I Victory Medal with France Service Clasp and Montdidier-Noyon, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne Battle and Defensive Clasp; Army of Occupation of Germany Medal; French Fourragere; World War I Victory Button- Silver; and Lapel Button for Service Prior to 1939 as well as the 1st Inf. Div. “Big Red One” shoulder insignia.

     “My mother was also a heroine who today would have stood next to my father and would have been equally as proud,” Nick said. “I am convinced he never knew he had been cited for gallantry.”