The last American veteran of World War I – Frank Buckles – died last week less than a month after his 110th birthday. His service and those of all American soldiers is being disrespected by Congress after refusal to allow Buckles to allow to lie in repose within the Capitol Rotunda.
World War I marked the turning point in America. Our country went from being a secluded nation to stepping out onto the world stage and extending our military might onto the European continent for the first time. Some might say that this moment in time is when America first became a superpower. Frank Buckles was more than a man – he was a symbol of what it meant to be an American early in the 20th century.
Frank Buckles had to lie about his age in order to join the Army at just 15 years old. In August of 1917 he was sent to Europe and served as an ambulance driver. Buckles raised to the rank of corporal before the war ended. After the war he went to work in the shipping industry and was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. He was held as a prisoner of war for more than three years before being freed by U.S. troops.
As the number of soldiers from World War I became fewer and fewer, Buckles took up the cause of getting a national memorial located in Washington D.C. which would be dedicated to all those who served in World War I. While our nation’s capital has memorials dedicated to the soldiers of World War II, the Korean and the Vietnam wars, there is no such memorial for World War I veterans. And that is a complete and utter shame.
After Buckles death on Feb. 27, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, introduced a resolution in the Senate that would have allowed the use of the Capitol to honor the country’s last “Doughboy” by lying in honor within the Rotunda. That the legislation was later blocked by House Speaker John Boehner. Although Boehner’s aides have denied that such is what happened, the fact remains that Buckles will not lie in state within the nation’s Capitol. That is a disgrace. More than 116,000 American military personnel were killed during World War I. They should be honored, not only by allowing Buckles to lie in honor, but also by the creation of a prominent national World War I memorial in Washington D.C.