Over the weekend, Frank Buckles, the last surviving "doughboy" of World War I, died at his farm in Charles Town, W.Va., at 110 years old.
Buckles' remarkable journey started at age 16 when he attempted repeatedly to join each of the armed services. Upon seeing the fresh-faced young man, claiming to be 18, Buckles said recruiters often told him to "go home before [his] mother noticed [he] was gone."
Buckles finally made a successful case to an Army recruiter, enlisting on Aug. 14, 1917--nearly a year and a half shy of his requisite 18th birthday. During the war, Buckles served as an ambulance driver in Europe, where his service would take him across France and England. Following the Armistice that effectively ended the war, Buckles guarded and transported German POWs on their return to Germany. A corporal by age 18, Buckles was honorably discharged in 1920.
During World War II, Buckles worked as a civilian in the Philippines, where he was taken prisoner by the Japanese at the fall of Manila. He was interned for more than three years in Japanese prison camps, where he led his fellow prisoners--including American service members--in morning calisthenics.
Upon his release and his subsequent return stateside, Buckles married and raised a family on the same West Virginia farm he called home until the day he died. Buckles was the last of more than 4.7 million Americans who served in the conflict.
AMVETS leaders were honored to join Buckles for a special reception in his honor at the U.S. Capitol in 2008, where Past National Commander John P. "JP" Brown III presented Buckles with a plaque acknowledging his uniformed service in WWI and his leadership as a captured American prisoner in World War II, along with an American flag to fly over his ranch in West Virginia.
AMVETS Riders from the Department of Tennessee also made a special journey to Buckles' farm in 2008 to spend some time trading war stories with Buckles.
AMVETS Riders National Commander Victor “Dutch” Stivason presented Buckles with a letter of appreciation, and then-Tennessee Road Captain Bruce McElhaney presented Buckles with a framed certificate honoring his service. The Riders also presented Buckles with a his own embroidered AMVETS Riders vest and a custom WWI patch on behalf of AMVETS Riders across the country.
In 2007, Buckles received the Légion d'honneur from French President Jacques Chirac. Buckles has also been honored by President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. A portrait of Buckles is on display at the Pentagon as part of a tribute to WWI veterans.
Earlier this month, American Veteran highlighted Buckles' 110th birthday.
"Frank Buckles lived a long, fulfilling life; selflessly sacrificing for the land he loved, seeing through some of our nation's most trying times and still grasping hold of the American dream," said AMVETS National Commander Jerry Hotop. "Today we have lost a tremendous link to our nation's history, so let us honor the memory of Frank Buckles and let us never forget the tremendous sacrifices of his generation, which helped to build the foundations of our strong and prosperous nation."
Buckles will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., with more details about memorial services available this week.
According to the Associated Press, family have asked that memorial donations be made in Buckles' honor to the World War One Legacy Project, managed by the non-profit Survivor Quest, which seeks to inform school children about WWI and the sacrifices of American service members in the conflict.
(Images: Top: Frank Buckles discusses his experiences in both world wars with AMVETS Riders at his Charles Town, W.Va. home. Photo courtesy Tennessee AMVETS Riders. Middle Right: Official Army portrait of Buckles while assigned to the U.S. Regular Army 1st Fort Riley Casual Detachment at age 16. Photo maintained by the Library of Congress. Middle Left: AMVETS Past National Commander John P. "JP" Brown III presents Buckles with a plaque and an American flag during the 2008 Capitol Hill reception. Photo by Ryan Gallucci. Bottom: AMVETS Riders join Buckles for a photo at his ranch in 2008. Photo courtesy Tennessee AMVETS Riders.)