Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The end of an era: Our WWI vets are no more

After starting the count with 4,734,991, the last remaining American veteran of World War I has died. Frank Buckles was a Corporal in the U.S. Army when the Great War ended on November 11, 1918. Buckles lied about his age in order to enter service as an ambulance driver, so at age 16 or 17, he was quite a young buck when he served "Over There."

Buckles wasn't done with world wars, however. He was working in the Philippines in 1941 when the Japanese invaded that country. Buckles ended up spending World War II in a Japanese prison camp that had been set up to house foreign civilians. I can imagine the abuse his body withstood, what with malnutrition and exposure, which makes his longevity all the more amazing.

Being born on February 1, 1901, I have given thought to what Buckles's age means.

He was 7 months old when President William McKinley was assassinated.

He was 11 years old when he saw headlines in the newspaper about the Titanic sinking in the North Atlantic.

He had the opportunity to talk to plenty of Civil War veterans, who were only in their 70s by the time he was old enough to comprehend what they had to tell him.

He was born only three years after the end of the Spanish-American War, and as a child, was old enough to remember Teddy Roosevelt being president.

The Wright Brothers flew their first flight when Buckles was almost 3 years old, and he lived to see the end of the Space Shuttle program.

In the year of his birth, someone who died that same year who was the same age Buckles was when he died, would have been born in 1791 when George Washington was only two years into his presidency.

He was born 112 years after the Constitution went into effect in our country, which means, having died at the age of 110, his life spanned just under half of our country's existence under the Constitution.

And my favorite statistic: When Buckles was my age, the year was only 1940. That means if I live as long as he did, if the year was 1940 right now, I still have until 2011!

It truly boggles the mind.

Rest in Peace Mr. Buckles.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson (who died a mere 75 years before Frank Buckles was born!)

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