The last surviving U.S. WWI veteran died recently, just a few weeks after he turned 110.
Frank Buckles served in the U.S. Army as an ambulance driver in Europe during the “Great War”, as it was then called, and became a corporal shortly before the end of the four-year conflict (in which more than 16.5 million people lost their lives). Buckles also served in WWII as a ship’s officer on merchant vessels; during this period, he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for over three years.
Knowing that he was the last living WWI veteran was a role he assumed with a great sense of responsibility, advocating for a national WWI monument. According to his daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan,
“He looked upon this as his final duty, which he took very seriously.”
For that reason, Susannah Buckles Flanagan is advocating that her father lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda “as a final, formal tribute to all the veterans of World War I”, a possibility that had been discussed while Mr. Buckles was still alive. But the legislation, introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, has been blocked by Speaker of the House John Boehner. Members of the House & Senate and the family & friends of Frank Woodruff Buckles are surprised and disappointed with this decision, although Boehner’s spokesman is suggesting that the legislation has not been blocked; rather, the Speaker and Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid, feel the Arlington National Cemetery is the more fitting location for this final honor.
We can never repay Frank Buckles for the sacrifices he made by serving his country in both World Wars, and his continued dedication to the causes he held dear throughout his life. But would this final honor, should it be granted, be a lasting legacy that gives testament to the immeasurably valiant commitment of the men and women who made this nation great? I think so.
What do you think? Should Frank Buckles lie in honor in the Rotunda?