March 8, 2011
An open letter
To the Senate Armed Services Committee members
Senators, America lost one of its greatest treasures on February 27th, when Mr. Frank Buckles died. Mr. Buckles was America’s last surviving veteran of WWI. Our last living Dough Boy.
Prior to his death, the late senator Robert Byrd and Senator Richard Burr (W Va.) penned a letter advocating Mr. Buckles be allowed to lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda upon his death. Since Mr. Buckles death, Senators John D. Rockefeller and Joe Manchin III and Representative Shelly Moore Capito (W. Va.) each have sponsored resolutions in the house and senate to honor Frank Buckles and his generation, by allowing his body to lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda.
At this moment, those resolutions have been stopped by actions of Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Harry Reid. I and many other Americans find these actions denying Mr. Frank Buckles this honor unconscionable.
When the last surviving French WWI veteran died, he was given a state funeral with full military honors and President Sarkozy attended the service. When the last British WWI veteran died, his services were held at Westminster Abby with full military honors and the Queen and Prime Minister in attendance.
At this moment, the French government has expressed interest in honoring Mr. Buckles as I am sure the British government has also.
Senators, Frank Buckles and the American people deserve a fitting and honorable memorial tribute to his life and service and in tribute to the 4.7 million veterans that Frank Buckles now represents via his distinction of being the last of his generation.
The time to accomplish what is right is short and soon will pass. There is only one opportunity to do the right thing. Presently, the proposed memorial service at the Arlington amphitheater is certainly appropriate immediately prior to Mr. Buckles interment; however, it is not appropriate as the sole tribute that America can muster to honor the life of either Frank Buckles or the millions who served this nation during the great war. The amphitheater service that has been proposed, also fails to take into account the many thousands who would like to attend Mr. Buckles Memorial service.
If the services held in France and Great Britain for their veterans are any indication, the numbers desiring to honor Frank Buckles could easily exceed 100,000 and the Amphitheater at Arlington cannot accommodate those numbers.
Mr. Buckles spent the last years of his life seeking to see his comrades honored with a lasting memorial to WWI veterans in Washington DC. That mission remains unfulfilled. I believe that as a nation, we should begin to memorialize these men and women now, with both our tribute to Frank Buckles and ultimately build their memorial on the mall along side the others.
How America handles Mr. Buckles memorial will be viewed not only through the eyes of Americans, but also through the eyes of those in Europe who have previously honored their sacred dead with extensive memorial services at the state level with presidents. prime ministers and monarchs in attendance.
The question at this moment, is whether each of you, representing leadership positions in the senate, and the President of the United States, will come together to do the honorable thing and honor Frank Buckles and his generation as they should be honored. Will you honor him with the highest respect and to the fullest extent of capability that this nation can muster to convey our appreciation for the lives and sacrifices made during the great war. Or will you relegate the memory of Frank Buckles and 4.7 million others to the reality that they simply did not matter to America at this juncture in history.
I believe that President Calvin Coolidge said it best when he said...”The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.”
The eyes of this nation and the eyes of the world will determine how America will be
judged as it concerns our respect for those who have sacrificed so much.
As an American citizen and in behalf of all American veterans and especially our American veterans, I am respectfully requesting that each of you support honoring Frank Buckles being allowed to lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda. And I call upon each of you to seek to honor Frank Buckles in the manner befitting his stature as a representative of the last of his generation and as the last American WWI veteran.