Honoring America’s Last Surviving WWI Veteran


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Image of WW1 veteran Frank BucklesJust over 21.9 million U.S. military Veterans are part of the 307 million people living in the United States; another 1.4 million Americans serve in the active duty military. On Veterans Day, we honor all who served, knowing that all Veterans, whether they served through the harshest conditions of combat or during peacetime, took on the ultimate responsibility of citizenship in a free society and in doing so served us all. Yet, as we celebrate the service of all Veterans this Veterans Day, there is one Veteran’s life worth noting.

Ninety-three years ago, Frank Buckles took the oath of enlistment and joined the U.S. Army. He was under age 16, but dreamed of service and adventure and realized that dream during his duty in Europe during World War One. Today, at 109 years of age, Mr. Buckles is recognized as the last living U.S. Veteran of World War One; the last link with a generation of Veterans who ushered the United States onto the world stage and played a pivotal role in the development of U.S. policy and law that led to creation of the VA and the nation’s system of comprehensive services and benefits for Veterans.

Mr. Buckles continues to remember and value his military service. He was a regular participant in the General Pershing graveside ceremony each Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery until a few years ago when the trip from his West Virginia farm proved too demanding. He visited the President at the White House a few years ago, expressing his desire to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near “his general,” General John J. Pershing, and his concern that there is no official U.S. national monument memorializing the Veterans of World War One in the nation’s capital. His family, friends and supporters are working on both issues.

So while we honor all who served this Veterans Day, let’s celebrate the life of one singled out by fate and history to be our last link with the men and women in uniform who made the world safe for democracy on the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of the eleventh day—the day we celebrate as Veterans Day.

You can learn more about Mr. Buckles here.

Chris Scheer is a long-time VA employee who was instrumental in VA’s search for America’s living World War One Veterans that began a decade ago in order to identify last living Veterans of the Great War and assist the public in recognizing and honoring their service and place in history. He proudly works as a volunteer to support the annual Veterans Day ceremony and program at Arlington National Cemetery.

(Editor’s note: The post was revised to reflect correct Census Bureau information on November 26, 2010 at 1:04 PM ET.)

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

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Comments

  1. Karl Buckles    

    I am humbled by Mr. Buckles serivce and courage. I am also proud to say he is a relative. On this day, I salute you Frank. And I thank you for your service! God bless and keep you!

  2. James Hallman    

    I started work at the VA Medical Center in Tuscaloosa Alabama in 1983 and even then there were quite a few WW1 veterans still around. They were up in their 80’s at that time and I enjoyed their war stories. It was an honor to have known many of them and being able to asist them

  3. Matericia    

    Thank you for introducing us to Frank Buckles. Americans need to hear these stories. We need to hear them in order to appreciate the sacrifices for freedom our brothers and sisters in uniform have made since the very beginning of the United States.

    Happy Veterans Day and Thank You from a grateful nation.

  4. Michael Copley    

    Thank you Mr. Buckles for your service and the sacrifices you made for this country… I am Honored to know sir…
    Semper Fi

  5. April    

    What a wonderful story. Frank Buckles is a true example of what America means to me. From one simple Vet, to a truly honorable Veteran, Thank You sir.

  6. Dr. Deborah Hauck    

    Sir, it is a great Honor and Privilege to even beable to say Thank You. Freedom isn’t free but the World thanks you for the price you paid. Semper Fi!!

  7. Kathe Bachtel    

    Thank you Mr. Buckles for believing in the tenets of FREEDOM being worthy of protection throughtout your life. You joined to protect and serve the year my father was born and he, too, dedicated his life to those tenets.Bless you Sir, and Thank you again.

  8. April    

    Veterans Day is a day to Honor, Reflect, and Give Thanks to those Brave Men and Women who have defended our Freedoms Past, Present, and Future. Thank You Sir.
    USAF Family Goodfellow AFB TX

  9. Donna Ghost Bear    

    Salute to you sir! Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

  10. Michael P. Desorcy    

    Mr.Buckles,I just want to say “Thank You for your service to our country”! Airborne Air Assault All the Way!

  11. Michele    

    Thank you Mr. Buckles and all the veterans!

  12. Judy Maxwell    

    Thank you sir for your sacrafices. The people and events in that time in our history truly take me aback. The strength and chariture are unmatched since.

  13. Paul Hnarakis    

    Congradulations. for being the last survior of WWI and living at 109 years old too ! How did you do it ? Hope you can leave a little advice of peace and war for future veterans. On Veteran’s Day we saluate you.
    Paul Of Maryland

  14. Debra    

    I am amazed that he faced war as a man whwn he was still a child. How many 15 year olds today could or would willing do what he did. I thank you Frank for the great things you and your generation have done for all of us who followed.

  15. Andrea Canning    

    Mr.Buckles, Thank You so much for your service to our Great Country. Happy Veteran’s Day, may God bless you!

  16. Scott Campbell    

    Thank you Mr. Buckles for serving our country in what is called, “The War To End All Wars”. Also not just for serving during that war but for all the time and effort you have given to help the VA and Veterans every where. A true American Hero you sir. May God Bless You.

  17. Jeffrey Brenning    

    Thank you for your service and sacrifice sir. I salute you.

  18. David HIlden SR.    

    Thank you sir for your sewrvice to the greatest nation on earth bar none

  19. SFC Don Brantley    

    THANK YOU Sir, for stepping up and defending your country and freedom. Our father also served in Europe,in the next war in Ardennes, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. He NEVER spoke of those days other than the days prior to shipping out. PLEASE write those memories down and share them with the World. We ALL salute you on this Veterans Day! Job Well Done Sir. Mission Complete. AIRBORNE

  20. Rick N. Riggins SMC(SW) USN, Ret.    

    I consider it an honor to have read the story of Mr.Buckle and to know that he along with others like my late uncle served in WWI so courageously and honorably. I have had the honor of having uncle’s serve in WWII and Korea as well, Well done to you sir!

  21. Tory    

    I have had many relatives serve throughout the world. I recently lost my fiancee’, Frank, to a battle wound from Afghanistan. I know the sacrifice that you make when you signed up at 15. You, sir, are another important hero in our history. Thank you for service with my Grandfather to win the war to end all woars. Gld Bless you and all our troops.

  22. Tory    

    My grandfather served in WWI. Most of the men in my family have served. I recently lost my fiancee, Frank, to a battle wound from Afghanistan. I know the sacrifice you have lived with all your life. Thank you for serving with such honor and accepting for all our veterans on this day. God Bless.

  23. Laura    

    Wow, what an inspiration! Thank you Mr. Buckles for your courage and commitment. Generations of Americans are indebted to you. We will be forever grateful.

  24. Judi Keene Jenkins    

    A salute and hats off to you, sir. No one but a veteran will ever know the sacrifices that a veteran made. I can hardly imagine a young man your age experiencing what you did. God Bless you!

  25. Steve M    

    Peace to you fellow veteran. I and my country salute you sir.

  26. Floyd Perry    

    I thank you Mr. Buckles, I to am a vet but did not serve in any battle as others have. It takes a brave breed of person to serve as you and many others. May God Bless you.

  27. Judy Wing    

    I, to, am proud to be associated with Mr. Buckles…if only as a fellow American. Thank you for your service, Mr. Buckles…you are a TRUE American in every sense of the word!

  28. Ryan Fox    

    Any way I could meet this great man?

  29. .sfc mcsherry    

    It is great to hear of his age an still desire for things to happen In Washington to furthur commerate all service men to include his service to our country.

  30. P.G. Gentrup    

    It’s what he represents that makes him famous—the last DOUGHBOY !! I’ve been following this for a few years and now that we’re down to the last one I plan to go to DC for his funeral at Arlington. I hope that doesn’t come any time soon. This will be my way as a Vietnam Veteran to pay proper last respect to a man who represents a brave generation of soldiers who made so many sacrifices. Frank Buckles–good health to you and may God watch over you. PG

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