On Sunday, 27 February, 2011, something incredibly significant happened. And most of us missed it.
Frank W. Buckles died on Sunday. He was 110. And believe it or not, the fact that he was 110 wasn’t that incredibly significant thing – although it is pretty amazing when you think about all that he saw in his life since 1901.
Frank Buckles was (as far as the Veterans Administration can determine) the last surviving veteran of World War I.
Longevity in and of itself is not such an amazing personal achievement. In some ways its beyond your control (environment, genetics, etc.).
What’s significant here is what Mr. Buckles’ death represents. The passing into history of a significant chapter of our past. The generation of people (men and women) who turned the tide in France. Who played a key role in stopping the German advance toward Paris. Marne, Saint-Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Cantigny. Places that most of us have never heard of, but names that men like Frank Buckles would never forget.
Frank Buckles lied to get into the Army in April of 1917 when he was just sixteen years old. Close to 5 million Americans served in World War I. They’re gone now. We’ve lost something.
I wonder if we’ll notice.