Saturday, May 29, 2010

Honoring The Living On Memorial Day ...

In Retired Major General Logan's proclamation of Memorial Day he declared the following ... "The 30th. of May, 1968, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."

Now allow me to honor one of America's true 'living' heroes ... Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last known living, American-born veteran of World War I.

"I had a feeling of longevity and that I might be among those who survived, but I didn't know I'd be the No. 1," the now 109 year old said at a ceremony to unveil his portrait two years ago.

During that ceremony, his photograph was hung in the main hallway of the National World War I Museum, which he toured for the first time, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States presented him with a gold medal of merit ... he was later presented with an American flag which was flown outside the memorial.

Buckles, who now lives in Charles Town, W.Va., has been an invited guest at the Pentagon, met with President Bush in Washington, D.C., and rode in the annual Armed Forces Day Parade in his home state since his status as one of the last living from the "Great War" was discovered nearly four years ago.

Federal officials have also arranged for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States entered the "war to end all wars" in April 1917.

He was rejected by the Marines and by the Navy, but eventually Buckles persuaded an Army captain that he was 18 years of age, convincing him that Missouri didn't keep public records of birth he was permitted to enlist.

Buckles sailed for England in 1917 on the Carpathia, which is known for it's rescue of Titanic survivors, and spent his tour of duty working mainly as a diver and a warehouse clerk in Germany and France. He rose to the rank of corporal and after Armistice Day he helped return prisoners of war to Germany.

Buckles later traveled the world working for the shipping company White Star Line and was in the Philippines in 1940 when the Japanese invaded. He then became a prisoner of war for nearly three years.

Buckles gained notoriety when he attended a Veteran's Day ceremony at the Arlington grave of Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, who led U.S. forces in World War I, said his daughter, Susanna Flanagan.

He ended up on the podium and became a featured guest at the event, and the VIP invites and media interview requests came rolling in shortly afterward.

"This has been such a great surprise," Flanagan said. "You wouldn't think there would be this much interest in World War I. But the timing in history has been such and it's been unreal."

Buckles spent much of his museum tour looking at mementos of Pershing, whom he admired. He also posed for pictures in front of a flag that used to be in Pershing's office and retold stories about meeting the famous general.

While Pershing claims most of the fame, Buckles now has a featured place at the museum.

"This is such an extraordinary occasion that we here at the museum decided that the photo of Mr. Buckles should be permanently installed in the main hallway here," said Brian Alexander, the museum's president and chief executive.

The above story is an annual re-post ... please remember all of America's fallen heroes this Memorial Day ... my heart's desire is that all have a safe and peaceful holiday weekend.



nothingprofound said...

Fascinating. Would love to hear his opinions about the "modern world." Hope I live that long

Anonymous said...

Nothing Profound I would imagine that his thoughts would be a might alien to most folks today ...

Senior Debutante said...

Mr. Buckles being in my country, the Philippines, in the 1940's which coincided with the Japanese occupation fascinates me. Those were our darkest days in history. He was lucky to have survived his POW status then.

Anonymous said...

Yes Senior Debutante ... I bet Mr. Buckles could tell some fascinating stories ...