Monday, February 28, 2011
The last known survivor of World War I, Cpl. Frank Buckles, died of natural causes at his West Virginia farm on Sunday, February 27, 2011. He was 110.
Remembered as a cordial fellow of gentle humor, he was one of the dwindling numbers of eyewitnesses to history that many will only read about in schoolbooks. "I knew there'd be only one someday," he said a few years back. "I didn't think it would be me."
A remarkably reverent obit at The Washington Post recounts how Cpl. Buckles was born by lantern light in a Missouri farmhouse, quit school at the age of sixteen and bluffed his way into the Army. As the nation flexed its full military might overseas for the first time, he joined 4.7 million Americans in uniform and was among two million U.S. troops shipped to France to vanquish the German Kaiser.
[He] was just a naive schoolboy chasing adventure when he enlisted Aug. 14, 1917, after the United States joined a war that had been raging for three years, with millions dead. "I knew what was happening in Europe, even though I was quite young," he told a Washington Post reporter when he was 105. "And I thought, well, 'I want to get over there and see what it's about."
After the armistice, he traveled the globe as a purser on commercial ships and was caught in Manila when Japan invaded the Philippines in 1941. He endured 38 months of cruel deprivation as a civilian prisoner during World War II before being freed in a daring military raid.
In 1953, he and his wife Audrey bought a cattle farm with a Colonial-era stone house near Charles Town, WV and there he quietly spent the rest of his life, his doughboy tunic hanging in a closet.
"We have lost a living link to an important era in our nation's history," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "But we have also lost a man of quiet dignity, who dedicated his final years to ensuring the sacrifices of his fellow 'Doughboys' are appropriately commemorated.”
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller called Buckles "a wonderfully plainspoken man and an icon for the World War I generation" and said he will continue fighting for the memorial Buckles wanted.
"He lived a long and rich life as a true American patriot," said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, "and I hope that his family's loss is lightened with the knowledge that he was loved and will be missed by so many."
The family asked that donations be made to the National World War One Legacy Project. The project is managed by the nonprofit Survivor Quest and will educate students about Buckles and WWI through a documentary and traveling educational exhibition.
I am reminded of something C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man published in 1943: "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful."
Frank Buckles was a man with a chest and today’s young men could learn much from his long and storied life.
Our nation barely noticed Frank until the list of World War I veterans was reduced to one. It was then that the public took notice. This should not have been.
Sound the call of Taps. Day is done. Rest in peace soldier.
Read more: http://nosheepleshere.blogspot.com/#ixzz1Fh0EgORd