Frank Buckles was the last surviving American veteran of World War I, having bluffed his way into the Army at age 16. He died this week at his home in West Virginia, "sadly yet not unexpectedly," at the age of 110, and the Washington Post and New York Times obituaries will give you some sense of this extraordinary man and his remarkable life -- having met both veterans of the Crimean War and President George W. Bush, having survived both World War I and more than three years in a Japanese prisoner camp during World War II. Calling him a "great American" is insufficient.
Frank Woodruff Buckles was born Feb. 1, 1901, on a farm near Bethany, Mo. He was living in Oakwood, Okla., when the United States entered World War I, and he tried to enlist in the Marine Corps at age 16, having been inspired by recruiting posters.
The Marines turned him down as under-age and under the required weight. The Navy did not want him either, saying he had flat feet. But the Army took him in August 1917 after he lied about his age, and he volunteered to be an ambulance driver, hearing that was the quickest path to service in France.
He sailed for England in December 1917 on the Carpathia, the ship that helped save survivors of the Titanic’s sinking in 1912. He later served in various locations in France, including Bordeaux, and drove military autos and ambulances. He was moved by the war’s impact on the French people.
“The little French children were hungry,” Mr. Buckles recalled in a 2001 interview for the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. “We’d feed the children. To me, that was a pretty sad sight.”
Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin sought the use of the Capitol Rotunda for Buckles to lie in honor there, an honor reserved for few Americans but certainly one for which Buckles is worthy. It is an honor which Buckles's family would like him to receive, with his daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan stating:
How beautiful it is that the United States of America would have the opportunity to participate - that all the colors of the rainbow would be able to stand shoulder to shoulder to honor Papa.Indeed, who could say no to such a request? Speaker John Boehner:
Boehner's office said the speaker had no plans to allow Buckles’ body to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, as some lawmakers from Buckles’ home state of West Virginia have proposed.But as Buckles's family has noted, that's not enough:
“The speaker intends to ask Secretary [Robert] Gates to allow Mr. Buckles’ family to use the amphitheater at Arlington cemetery for his memorial service,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said today.
Buckles family spokesperson David DeJonge said the veteran's funeral is scheduled for March 15 at Arlington, but he pointed out that the cemetery cannot handle the volume of visitors who want to honor Buckles' memory.Call Speaker Boehner's office at (202) 225-6205. Tell them to grant Frank Buckles the final honor he so richly deserves.
"Boehner is going against the will of the people," DeJonge said, adding that various groups from across the country want to pay their respects to Buckles at the Capitol. He said everyone from motorcycle clubs to representatives of 2,000 war re-enactors already contacted him about participating in a ceremony to honor the nation's last link to WWI, and Arlington National Cemetery won't be able to handle such a huge crowd.
For more discussion, see blonde moment's diary.