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Arlington Cemetery Makes Historic Exception for World War I VeteranSalem-News.com
Frank Buckles apparently doesn't intend to take the offer any time soon. At 107, he still does 50 sit ups a day and lifts weights three times a week.
(MILWAUKIE, Ore.) - Ken Buckles, Executive Director of Oregon's Remembering America's Heroes, has won a long-fought battle – a battle centered around World War One.
For twelve years, Buckles has been recognizing and honoring American Vets through his program at Milwaukie High School where he is also a teacher. But this time it was personal.
Ken Buckles is related to Frank Buckles, America's last living WWI Veteran.
Last October, Ken Buckles was attending the funeral for Tuskegee Airman Richard Macon at Arlington National Cemetery and was shocked to discover that the United States is the only one of the Allied Powers that does not have a State Funeral for its last surviving WWI Veteran.
For several years the centagenarian Buckles had been one of the keynote speakers at Remembering America's Heroes Living History Day program, retiring from the program six years ago at age 101.
While "Uncle Frank" is remarkably hale and healthy at 107 at his farm in West Virginia, the Oregon Buckles felt the United States should accord the same honor to its ultimate World War I Veteran as other countries do.
"I thought it was just a travesty that the United States is the only country that doesn't honor its World War One Veterans this way," the director of RAH said. "Our mission at Remembering America's Heroes is to remember, honor and thank our Veterans. So I felt we had to do something about this."
Buckles met with the president of Arlington National Cemetery in 2007 to discuss the issue and was told that Frank Buckles did not qualify for Interment at Arlington as that honor is reserved for Medal of Honor or Purple Heart recipients, or those killed in action.
Buckles petitioned Oregon Senators Wyden and Smith, and West Virginia Senator Byrd but got no response. He then approached the popular media including Oprah, Bill O'Reilly and even Kid Rock, all known as supporters of Veterans' rights, but still no one was willing to champion the cause.
Then Buckles recalled that "Uncle Frank" had met Ross Perot at the 2001 Living History Day event. He faxed his request for assistance to Perot and within minutes he had a response.
Ross Perot, former U.S. Presidential candidate, took the cause to the White House. In less than two weeks, he had succeeded in securing an internment for Frank Buckles at Arlington National Cemetery.
Perot contacted Ken Buckles personally with the good news. "This is the right thing to do. This needs to happen," Perot said. This marks only the second time in history this exemption has been made, the first was for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Frank Buckles apparently doesn't intend to take the offer any time soon. At 107, he still does 50 sit ups a day and lifts weights three times a week. He lives with his daughter in Charlestown, West Virginia. He served in the US Army in World War One, was a prisoner of War at Los Banos internment camp in World War Two.
Remembering America's Heroes (RAH) Living History Day is a program that brings together high school students with Veterans from all U.S. conflicts to give young people a deeper understanding of the meaning of service and sacrifice. The program has touched tens of thousands of Oregon students over the years and has helped ensure that, at least for these students, Veteran's Day isn't just a day off from school but a time to honor and reflect. RAH is a non-profit organization. For more information, please contact RAH at 503.659.5157
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