Veterans Day, usually observed on November 11, is a federal holiday on which we honor those who have served in the armed forces of the United States ... the observation was originally designated in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day ... Wilson selected November 11 because the Armistice ending World War I had been signed on this date in 1918 ... Wilson wanted to make sure that Americans did not forget the tragedies of the war ... in 1938, Congress passed legislation which designated Armistice Day as a legal, federal holiday ... the name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 so that all veterans would be honored ... for a brief period (1971-1977), the holiday was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October ... each Veterans Day, special services take place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery and all across the United States.
Of those deserving of honor on this day, one man in particular merits special recognition ... 109-year-old Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last known living, American-born veteran of World War I ... born in Harrison County, 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 ... an underage but eager recruit, he was rejected by the Marines and by the Navy, but after eventually persuading an Army captain that he was 18-years-of-age, and that Missouri did not keep public records of birth, he was permitted to enlist ... Buckles subsequently sailed for England in 1917 aboard 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 rank of corporal, and after Armistice Day he helped return prisoners of war to Germany ... he drove motorcycles, cars, and ambulances in England and France, and during the Occupation, he guarded German prisoners ... Buckles eventually went to work for the White Star steamship line and was in Manila on business in December 1941 when the Japanese invaded ... he spent over three years as a prisoner of war at the city's University of Santo Tomas.
Frank Buckles, who now resides in Charles Town, West Virginia, 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 ... in 2008, 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 the Gold Medal of Merit ... federal officials have also arranged for his eventual burial at Arlington National Cemetery ... "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" ... Frank Buckles
A word from Frank Buckles ...
Dear Fellow Patriot: Thank-you for your interest in my story as America's last World War One Survivor ... I appreciate your thoughts and prayers and am humbled to be the representative of nearly 5 million Americans who served with me ... 93 years ago I was stationed in France to serve the United States of America when I heard the news that the war had ended. 93 years have passed and there is still not a memorial to our service in our nations capitol- Washington, DC. ... 4,734,991 Americans served and 116,561 Americans died during WWI ... it is my last hope and my desire that there will be a monument in Washington DC so that our sacrifice will not be forgotten ... if you wish to thank me please write your congressmen and ask them to support HR 482 ... for more information and to sign the petition, please visit www.wwimemorial.org
Patriotically yours, Frank Woodruff Buckles