Congressional Leaders Continue to Block WWI Vet Being Honored in Capitol Rotunda?

06 Mar

The daughter of Frank Buckles, the longest-living American to serve in World War I, is urging lawmakers to let her father’s body lie in the Capitol Rotunda to honor all the war’s veterans.

Frank Buckles' enlistment photo into the U.S. Army in 1917, left, and Buckles receives an American flag during Memorial Day activities at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, May 26, 2008. (AP)

“There is no one left,” Susannah Buckles Flanagan wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. “If we lost the opportunity to bestow this highest of honors on the person who was the last surviving representative, there can be no making it up later.”

Congressional Leaders – largely along party lines – have been divided over how to best honor Buckles and the 4.7 million other Americans who served during World War I.

West Virginia lawmakers want to see him lie in the Capitol Rotunda, and are upset with House and Senate leaders – Republican (GOTP) Speaker John Boehner, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – who have objected.

Someone please explain what there is to object over? Who in their right mind sees this as something to oppose? No one is asking every veteran be accorded this honor, although they all deserve it. They’re asking for the body of last soldier of the Great War to be placed in honorable repose as a symbol of the sacrifice made by all.

Flanagan said it was one of her father’s wishes to lie in the Rotunda after his death – not as a personal honor but in memory of all veterans of World War I.

“He looked upon this as his final duty, which he took seriously,” Flanagan said. “If the last American soldier surviving is not suitable to serve as a symbol around which we can rally to honor those who served their country in the Great War, then who can serve that purpose?”

Her point is well taken. Mr. Buckles is the last American to have served in World War I. He’s it; there are no more. What’s the big deal? And why are Boehner and Reid seeking Pentagon permission to conduct ceremonies in the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, where Buckles will be buried? This really seems to be a no-brainer, and yet these two are opposing it?

Lying in honor – called lying in state in the case of elected U.S. officials or military officers – has occurred only 30 times starting in 1852 with Henry Clay, a longtime senator and congressman. Others include Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, unknown soldiers from America’s wars and civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

Buckles’ biographer and family spokesman, David DeJonge, said of the debate over how Buckles should be honored, “We want to afford every American full opportunity to pay honor and respect to that symbol of a great generation.”

Flanagan said no extraordinary precedent would be made by honoring Buckles in the Capitol Rotunda, “The next similar request will come for the last survivor of World War II in 25 or 30 years’ time, and it will be appropriate to honor that person, as well.”

The difference will be, for some, that the World War II generation has received an inflated hero status above all other generations. They’re the “greatest generation” meaning none before and none after will ever measure up to their heroism and sacrifice. All of which is hog wash.

No one will dispute that the so-called “greatest generation” overcame tremendous obstacles, but were they greater than the generation which fought and secured America’s independence? Were they greater than the generation which fought and died to preserve the union? Were they greater than those who battled in Korea and Vietnam? Were they greater than the young men and women fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan? The “greatest generation” was a force made up mostly of draftees; today’s fighting force is all volunteer, no draftees. Tell me which – if any – generation is the “greatest”?

Frank Buckles is the last veteran to have fought in the First World War, the “war to end all wars”; he – and his fellow veterans of that great conflict – deserve this honor. If the common soldier who served so well and faithfully, representing his entire generation of soldiers, who likewise served so well and faithfully, doesn’t deserve this singular honor than who does; certainly not those who are objecting to it.

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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Military, Patriotic, Politics, Veteran's


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