U.S. Air Force photo

Commander salutes last U.S. WWI veteran

American Legion National Commander Jimmie Foster described World War I veteran Frank Buckles as a symbol of a generation. Buckles, who was a member of The American Legion for nearly 80 years, passed away Feb. 27 at his home in West Virginia. He was the last surviving veteran of the "war to end all wars."

"Frank Buckles not only served his country in World War I, he symbolized one of history's most distinctive generations," Foster said. "His was a time when teenage boys across the country exaggerated their ages or found ways around the rules just to join the U.S. military and go into battle. It took Mr. Buckles three tries before he finally got into the Army at age 16 and eventually got his wish, to serve in the battlefields of the Western Front."

Foster added that Buckles was not only a dedicated soldier but an illustration of the kind of veteran who continued to serve after discharge from the military.

"Mr. Buckles is the last of the generation that gave birth to The American Legion," Foster said. "When that generation came home from war, there was no VA or GI Bill. But they had each other and began strengthening public and government awareness about our nation's duty to care for those who have been sent into harm's way. Veterans like Frank Buckles, who was a member of The American Legion for nearly 80 years, helped lay a foundation for generations to come. On behalf of the nation's largest veterans service organization, I salute the last U.S. veteran of the Great War, a man who later spent 39 months as a civilian prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and a Legionnaire who lived a long, honorable life in a nation whose freedom he had a hand in ensuring."