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Frank Buckles, the last of a legendary time

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Frank Buckles, the last of a legendary time
Frank Buckles, the final surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, died Sunday of natural causes. He was 110. David J. DeJonge

In 2008, I joined a group of American Legion National Headquarters staff – primarily veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan – for an unforgettable trip to visit Frank Buckles, last living U.S. World War I veteran. The moment we arrived at his home in Charles Town, W. Va., we realized the significance of our meeting and the bond we share.

Mr. Buckles’ daughter, Susannah, welcomed us and showed us around their home. Mr. Buckles, sitting in his chair, soon regaled us with stories from World War I and his service in England, which brought him to France where he drove ambulances during the Great War. It was supposed to have been the war to end all wars. At 107 years old, Mr. Buckles was very articulate in his speech and recollections. It came as no surprise to me that he lived until Sunday, Feb. 27, when he passed away at age 110.

During our visit, Mr. Buckles showed us a medicine ball from the naval ship that took him over to France. He shared several pictures from his days in the service. He explained to us that the same ship that took him to war, the Carpathia, had rescued the Titanic survivors in earlier years. Buckles also told us about his brief encounter with Gen. John J. Pershing, General of the Armies and an honorary National Commander of The American Legion. Pershing was a member of The American Legion Department of the District of Columbia’s George Washington Post 1, which is the post I belong to. It was revitalized in 2006. The highlight of our visit was presenting Mr. Buckles with his 75-year membership plaque in The American Legion. Shortly after our visit, Buckles was invited to the Pentagon to be recognized and honored as the last living U.S. World War I veteran and for his continuous efforts to see the rebuilding of a World War I Memorial on the National Mall. He lived long enough to see great progress in the project, which the Legion has supported.

It was a great honor for our group of Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to meet the last living U.S. World War I veteran. No matter which generation serves in the military, what remains the same is our common bond of military service. We honor Frank Buckles and his generation, which founded The American Legion in 1919.

Mr. Buckles, throughout our conversation, illustrated the meaning of connection among the war eras. He spoke of his comrades of the past, of World War I and of World War II, in which he was a civilian taken as a Japanese prisoner. As he remembered his comrades from the past, we remember him and those of his war era.

On behalf of my colleagues in The American Legion and among those with whom I have served, I salute Frank Buckles. The impression he left on us will never be forgotten.

Jacob Gadd is a deputy director of The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division in Washington, D.C.

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colbautista

April 7, 2011 - 10:56pm

I write in honor of the late Frank Buckles, Pershings Last Patriot and last American Vet of WWI, The Great War, who died at 110 in his hometown of Charles Town, West VA. Thank you CPL Buckles for your service and I know you are listening form above. Soon we will celebrate with you the completion of the new WWI Memorial on the National Mall, an event you worked so hard for and which will soon come to fruition. Until tomorrow, Col David F. BAutista, USAR (Ret)

Sooners61

February 28, 2011 - 6:56pm

A true American Hero and to think I worked all around Morgantown, WV and never new he lived there. In this uncertain world we live in it's nice to have been blessed by such a person and his family as well! See You On The Other Side Bro!!

sgt gallo 95-2003 disabled vetern

February 28, 2011 - 6:11pm

This man is truley one of our Nations Greatest national Treasure's. I canno't say enough on how important Veterns of this era and wars always be honored ww2,Philliphines,Korea,Vietnam,panama,grenada,somilia Desertstorm and my generation Iraq/Afganastain with a new recent living medal of honor hero.I can onely imagaine what kind of a hero Frank was like but I can feel him from talking to veterns from ww2 and pearl harbor that I have been honored to shake hands with @va hospitiol appts hear in kansas city,these men have so much history behind them and to have them talk to u as if they understand my issues from service is so much like feeling like I'm one of their grandson's their eys light up like fire & the history lesson begins.I onely hope and ask that my gereration of disableded veterns keep these fallen veterns of the great wars voices alive,If I had one last thing to do it would be to honor these great men who set the standard. god bless...

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