Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War I, passed away yesterday at the age of 110. He had served as an ambulance driver in France during the “Great War.”
Born in 1901, Buckles had enlisted in the United States Army in 1917 at age 16 by lying about his age after several unsuccessful attempts with the armed services. Buckles was also a civilian prisoner of war for three years in the Philippines after being captured by the Japanese during World War II.
The last surviving “Doughboy” was awarded the Legion of War by the French and honored by President George W. Bush at the White House. Although he did not see combat, Buckles will receive the unusual honor of being buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Representatives of the British and French governments will attend his funeral.
Buckles had campaigned for an American World War I monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Although there is a monument there to District of Columbia veterans of the war, there is no monument for the millions of American veterans of World War I. His family is requesting donations be sent to the National World War One Legacy Project. I hope that his death increases awareness of the need for such a monument.
In a completion ceremony at the Reading-Muhlenberg Vocational-Technical School in 2007, I addressed the graduates as President of the Joint School Committee. I cited the example of Frank Buckles who, although he was 107 at the time, was still reading a book about history, in urging them to “never stop learning.”