The passing, on February 28, of Frank Buckles received scant coverage from the news media. He did not meet the current qualifications for celebrity. Had he been a Charlie Sheen, whose unbridled personal habits caused his hit show to be canceled; a corrupt politician, whose avarice destroyed the lives of thousands; or even a serial killer—or serial philanderer, like Tiger Woods—his antics might have stopped the presses. Frank Buckles’ death, however, went almost unnoticed.
Frank Buckles was America’s last-known surviving veteran of World War I. He was too young to fight, but his constant attempts to join the AEF (American Expeditionary Force) impressed a recruiter enough to turn a blind eye to his youth.
Buckles and my grandfather were truck drivers in France. These young idealists thought they were fighting “the War to End All Wars.” They came back to an America that soon spiraled downward into the Great Depression and the criminal violence of the Prohibition era. Worse yet, they lived long enough to send their sons and daughters to fight in the Second World War.
The Americans who fought in World War II received the moniker, “the Greatest Generation.” Their fathers, who fought in the “Great War,” were forgotten, ignored, and pushed into the dustbin of history. Few know about their battles, and even Armistice Day (November 11), the holiday that Congress enacted to honor their service, has become Veterans Day.
The last of the Doughboys are now gone. Frank Buckles passed away on February 28 at the age of 110. Peace and honor to his ashes.
Zack Waters is the author of Blood Moon Rider. He is a fifth-generation Floridian. He has a B.A. from the University of Florida and a law degree from Memphis State University. He is a frequent contributor to Civil War publications on the topic of Florida’s Confederate soldiers.