I grew up in a time where not only were military actions and anything related to the government held in disdain and mistrust, but soldiers themselves were treated poorly by much of the public. So regardless of any feelings I have about whatever military or government actions happen in any given year, I love that there is a great public appreciation for our soldiers, the men and women who put their lives on the line in service to our nation.
So much attention has been paid to World War II in recent years, from ‘The Greatest Generation’, to school visits with veterans, to the passing of so many great heroes, that it seems the plight of those from ‘The Great War’ has been forgotten. Indeed, until a few years ago the World War I memorial had been falling into disrepair.
Now we have seen what is truly the end of an era – the last World War I veteran has died at the age of 110. From CNN:
Buckles marked his 110th birthday on February 1, but his family had earlier told CNN he had slowed considerably since last fall, according his daughter Susannah Buckles Flanagan, who lives at the family home near Charles Town, West Virginia.
Buckles, who served as a U.S. Army ambulance driver in Europe during what became known as the “Great War,” rose to the rank of corporal before the war ended. He came to prominence in recent years, in part because of the work of DeJonge, a Michigan portrait photographer who had undertaken a project to document the last surviving veterans of that war.
As the years continued, all but Buckles had passed away, leaving him the “last man standing” among U.S. troops who were called “The Doughboys.”
To put it into perspective, he would have been born in 1901 and entered the war at the very end. Grown up in an age before widespread recorded music, well before movie theaters and so on.
Mr. Buckles served in World War II and was captured by the Japanese and was a prisoner of war for three years. He had been an advocate for efforts to clean up the World War I memorial, an effort whose results he was never able to see due to failing health.
Let’s take a moment to remember a hero who gave more than a century of service to our country.