Today, America lost its last surviving veteran of World War I when Frank Buckles passed away on his West Virginia farm. He was 110 years old.
World War I lasted from 1914 to 1918, and was known as The Great War up until World War II broke out in the late 1930's. The U.S. became involved in 1917 and America's soldiers were called "doughboys."
Buckles served as an Army ambulance driver on the Western Front. In the post-war years he traveled the globe as a purser, and was there in person to watch Jesse Owens win gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. When the U.S. and several other nations were attacked in December 1941, Buckles was captured in the Philippines by Japanese forces; he was held as a civilian POW for more than three years, until being freed in a joint raid by American and Filipino forces. He and his wife purchased their farm in 1953 and lived there for the remainder of their lives. Now his body will be laid to its final rest in Arlington National Cemetery, perhaps wearing his old doughboy tunic that has been hanging in his closet for generations.
Buckles's passing means that across the entire planet, there are just two people still alive who served in World War I: A 109-year-old Australian man and 110-year-old British woman. The sacrifices of their generation have largely been ignored by historians and educators, in contrast to the sacrifices made by the later generation that fought World War II. Fortunately, it is never too late to rectify the slight.
Au revoir, Corporal Buckles.