WASHINGTON — America’s last surviving World War I veteran came to Congress on Thursday to ask lawmakers to create a memorial to honor his fellow combatants from “The Great War.”
“What am I supposed to say? Oh yes — the memorial, it’s an excellent idea!” exclaimed 108-year old Frank Buckles, as camera bulbs flashed to capture the moment.
The wheelchair-bound centenarian, who lives in nearby West Virginia, pleaded his case to lawmakers that the federal city — with monuments to honor veterans and fallen soldiers who fought in World War II, Vietnam and other conflicts — needs a symbol to honor veterans of World War I.
When the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, exactly 4,734,991 Americans had served in World War I. Only one is known to be alive. Some 100,000 Americans lost their lives in the 1914-1918 First World War, one of the deadliest in history.
“It makes perfect sense to have a national memorial in DC,” said Buckle’s daughter, Susannah Buckles-Flanagan.
“Our national mall is an educational tool seen by the children, the students, the tourists from all over the country and abroad,” she said.
In response to reporter’s queries, she added that her father “is in good shape.” Obviously he has a hard time hearing, but he still enjoys reading and he is doing his exercises every day.”
Buckles fought in the war beginning at the age of 16, and later was also a combatant in World War II, when he was captured by the Japanese troops and spent three years in a prison camp.
The US government has awarded him the World War I Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, while France bestowed upon him the French Legion of Honor medal.