Monday, February 28, 2011

Frank Woodruff Buckles, 1901-2011.

Late last night, I learned of the death of Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last living United States veteran of the First World War. Here's a bit about Mr. Buckles' life, from the Associated Press report on his passing:
Frank Buckles, who lied about his age to get into uniform during World War I and lived to be the last surviving U.S. veteran of that war, has died. He was 110.

Buckles, who also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II, died peacefully of natural causes early Sunday at his home in Charles Town, [West Virginia,] biographer and family spokesman David DeJonge said in a statement. Buckles turned 110 on Feb. 1 and had been advocating for a national memorial honoring veterans of the Great War in Washington, D.C.

When asked in February 2008 how it felt to be the last of his kind, he said simply, "I realized that somebody had to be, and it was me." And he told The Associated Press he would have done it all over again, "without a doubt."

. . .

Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States entered the "war to end all wars" in April 1917. He was repeatedly rejected before convincing an Army captain he was 18. He was 16½.

"A boy of (that age), he's not afraid of anything. He wants to get in there," Buckles said.
Among the various details in Mr. Buckles' New York Times obituary, the following bit caught my eye:
Sought out for interviews in his final years, Mr. Buckles told of having witnessed a ceremony involving British veterans of the Crimean War, fought in the 1850s, when he was stationed in England before heading to France. . . .
With the passing of Frank Buckles and others among the "last of the last," we lose more than a living link to the First World War - we also lose the links that Mr. Buckles and other centenarians had to even more distant events in the past. Though the United States has lost its last surviving World War I veteran, there are still many Americans who have met or at least seen veterans like Frank Buckles and can speak about the experience. When that link is lost, the First World War will become as irretrievably distant as the Crimean War probably is for most people today.

May the living continue to learn from Frank Buckles and the last of the last, and may their memory be eternal! AMDG.


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