Petition calls for Congress to allow last honor for World War I veteran
The last American World War I veteran died Feb. 27, at his home in West Virginia. Now, after learning that Congress has no plans to honor Frank Buckles, a Waxhaw historian has started a petition to change that.
Frank Buckles joined the Army at 16, signing up in 1917. He served as an ambulance driver during the First World War, later talking about transporting German prisoners of war. As a civilian, he was caught up in World War II, arriving in the Philippines the day before the Japanese invaded. He spent four years in a Japanese prison camp.
“I met Frank Buckles in 1993, during a reunion of World War I veterans in Chicago,” Farb said. “ I was fascinated by (his) story. Here was a man who lied about his age to get into the army, volunteered to go to France, who later came to know such famous figures as General “Black Jack” Pershing and John D. Rockefeller, and was later taken prisoner by the Japanese when they invaded Manila in 1941.”
Buckles’ story is part of the museum’s “Living History” series each year, with Farb sharing stories about his friend’s life. Farb kept in touch with Buckles over the years, visiting him at the man’s 330 acre cattle farm in West Virginia.
“It’s like reaching across history, talking to this man,” Farb said. “His grandmother remembered when the British burned Washington in 1812. His great-grandfather served in the American Revolution. I have known him and his daughter for almost twenty years, and think the lack of preparation for a public memorial service is a crying shame.”
Farb pointed to how the British honored Harry Patch, when the World War I veteran died in 2009. Almost 1,000,000 people came to see him lie in state and attend his public funeral. Here in the United States however, Congressional officials said there were no plans to have Buckles’ lie in state in the Rotunda, rather just planning for a family burial at Arlington. Gen. Douglas McArthur was the last unelected person to lay in the Rotunda, after his death in 1964.
To this effect, Farb has written letters to North Carolina Senators Burr and Hagan, while also putting together his own petition.
“I’ve had hundreds of people calling me, from historians to military personnel who know me as a friend of the family,” Farb said. “By bugging senators and representatives, maybe they’ll realize their mistake and give this man the respect he deserves.”
To sign Farb’s petition, people can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.