The connection was lost with the quiet passing of North Carolina’s Frank Buckles, who died in his sleep at the age of 110. His passing was as quiet as the battlefields he knew were loud. He had been the last surviving World War One veteran.
While he began serving the nation nearly more than 90 years ago, he kept serving his brothers in arms until the end. In 2008 and 2009, he was giving testimony in Congress and lobbying for a national monument to his fellow World War One vets.
The United States has been the fortunate beneficiary (and inspiration) of men and women like Mr. Buckles.
Having never served in the armed services, I can only reverently reflect upon the commitment of those who have. Some lose their lives on the battlefield, and thereby give what Abraham Lincoln described as “the last full measure of devotion.” Others return to their civilian lives with the silent scars of battle, either etched in their psyche or displayed on their bodies. Then I see Mr. Buckles, who carried his devotion to the cause of the Great War with him for nearly a century.
The last full measure of Mr. Buckles’ devotion was that he never forgot those who had fought, fell, and died all those years ago. He wanted to make sure the nation never forgot either.
So while California lost its last living link to that Great War in 2006, I believe that Mr. Buckles’ passing will touch us all, in every state, and of every age.
I hope the rest that he, and all those like him, has found is deserving of the character of a great generation that overcame two Great Wars, a great depression, and earned the gratitude of our entire nation.