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Apr-08-2008 21:23printcomments

Arlington Cemetery Makes Historic Exception for World War I Veteran

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.

Frank Buckles in an NBC television appearance.
Frank Buckles in an NBC television appearance.
Photo courtesy: MSNBC

(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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Mark Sheriff February 28, 2011 5:25 pm (Pacific time)

Mr. Buckles has earned the right. He served his nation, and payed his dues. As a P.O.W, I doubt he was treated kindly by the Japanese. He should have been given a purple heart for enduring mental and most likely physical torture during captivity. Mr, Buckles past away febuary 27, 2011 and he will be laid to rest where he belongs.

Brandon February 2, 2011 12:51 pm (Pacific time)

Interment (not "internment", as mentioned here) is allowed for decorated, non-retired veterans. One need not be a "hero" to be buried at Arlington, but one must meet eligibility criteria. Easy to find on Google:

Should an exception be made? Sure. Should the rule be changed? NO. Think of the legions of retired service men and women, the wounded or killed from 20 or 21st century conflicts, and the conflicts yet to come.

Frank's a man who enlisted underage, provided a great service as a driver in WWI and lived to be an incredible age, helping further understanding of the obligations and weight of military service. His death marks a milestone for those who served in the first Great War, and for that basis he should qualify for interment. But not on his own merits as a soldier at the time (see interment criteria). When his soul eventually rests with those he served beside, may we never forget their struggle or sacrifice. Think of them next Memorial Day when the kids are in the pool and the burgers are on the grill. This is a lot bigger than Frank Buckles.

Editor: Thank you for citing the spelling problem, it it corrected.

Terry May 30, 2010 11:53 am (Pacific time)

To the morons who don't think Cpl.Buckles deserves a spot in Arlington National Cemetary think of that honor as a salute: you don't salute the man, you salute the rank! Being the last of WWI's military I think our country owes itself to bestow this honor upon Mr. Buckles.

Kate March 19, 2010 5:36 pm (Pacific time)

There are a number of civilians buried at Arlington--several Supreme Court Justices, a few civilians killed in bombings of U.S. facilities, several spouses, a Secret Service agent and, of all things, the author of the book that was the basis of the TV show, The Flying Nun. I'd say Frank Buckles is as least as deserving as these.

Anonymous December 9, 2009 12:44 pm (Pacific time)

His burial at Arlington will be a capstone to all men and women who served and died in WWI. Exceptions have been made to several noteworthy Massachusetts people. At the end of the day, he represents veterans who may or may not have been textbook hero's.

Sheila Romero MSGT, USAF July 28, 2009 12:23 pm (Pacific time)

I deeply respect the bravery and service of true American heros. Mr. Buckles is not a decorated war hero. He is a survivor of life but does not represent the HEROs of WWI. As far as copying other nations to give a state funeral for the last surviving veteran, since when does America need to copy??? I am not opposed to a state funeral for Mr. Buckles but he does NOT meet the criteria to be buried at Arlington. There is no need to make an exception for a man who simply lived a long life. He should be afforded a burial in one of the many other cemetaries set aside for veterans. I think veterans should have the say and decide if an exception should be made, not politicians or billionaires who need some "good press".

Ryan April 27, 2009 5:02 am (Pacific time)

To those that object to his interment at ANC... his interment is an honor bestowed upon all the Veterans of that war. It is not his personal accomplishments or sufferings that earned him the right, it is him as the last representative of those that fought during World War I. The act is a capstone on a piece of our collective American history. I think that given that context it is entirely appropriate.

Ed Myers February 1, 2009 1:04 pm (Pacific time)

My wife's grandfather and grandmother are buried there. He was no hero. A former German who worked with me had a is also buried there. But, they buried his ashes. He also was given a large funeral

Bear fox October 28, 2008 7:30 pm (Pacific time)

Yea I agree. The location is good

P.G. Gentrup August 26, 2008 10:09 am (Pacific time)

I plan to attend the burial for Frank Buckles at Arlington National Cemetery because he will represent the last of the World War One Veterans from the USA. People will be able to visit his grave site and know that he was the last of that great generation of soldiers who served so bravely. I hope they have some kind of special service for Mr. Buckles so that people can attend it for many reasons. Some will come, like me, because they had a family member serve in World War One. Others will come just to pay respect for what he represents--The American VETERAN--and since he's the last one he will be a fitting representative. It's not just him we'll be paying tribute to but all of those who served in that terrible war. I'm honored to be the great grandson of a Civil War Veteran and grandson of a Spanish-American War Veteran, son-in-law of a WWII Veteran and a Vietnam Veteran myself. My grandfather's younger brother, Uncle Will, served in World War One and I have his pictures etc. on display in my game room. So, I don't look at it as just a tribute to Mr. Buckles but to finally say " Goodbye " and THANK YOU to these wonderful men and women who served to help make this a better world. It's our duty, as Americans, to make sure that the future generations know what sacrifices have been made for our freedoms. These World War I Veterans rank right up there with the best of them. Hopefully, Mr. Buckles will be with us for many more years and he can continue to tell his story to the youth of America. Frank Buckles will be remembered as the last American Veteran of WWI but we'll also remember the rest of them. I still have many memories of local WWI Veterans from here in Southeastern Indiana. Here's a tip of my hat to Mr. Buckles and may the others who have passed on Rest In Eternal Peace. P.G. Gentrup Rising Sun, Indiana

katrina June 3, 2008 9:05 am (Pacific time)

arlington cemetary ROCKS baby i went there and i loved it

chipper June 3, 2008 9:02 am (Pacific time)

i love arlington cemetarys bcuz i love cemetary because cemetarys are so cemetaryliciouse baby yay yay!!p.s im gangsta

kimberly June 3, 2008 8:59 am (Pacific time)

Alinton cemetary is the best cemetarey ever!!!

Susan Hayes May 26, 2008 5:52 am (Pacific time)

While I have the utmost respect for Frank Buckles I don't agree with him being buried in Arlington Cemetary. There are many men and women that have accomplished an extremely larger amount of service as Mr. Buckles and they won't be buried in Arlington Cemetary. Should everyone fight for their loved ones in order to be buried in Arlington Cemetary? That cemetary is reserved for a certain class of individuals and unfortunatly Mr. Buckles doesn't meet that criteria so like all other veterans he should simply be buried in a veterans cemetary. I appreciate the service that Mr. Buckles has given to this country as well as my family which includes my husband and two sons, so should they also be buried in Arlington Cemetary?

Frank K April 17, 2008 10:56 am (Pacific time)

As the granson of a decorated WW1 veteran (Massachusetts Yankee Division) it is a remarkable life Mr. Buckles has lived and God willing will continue living.

Matt Johnson April 10, 2008 10:15 am (Pacific time)

Why don't you read between the lines and see that the fact that O'Really could care less is duly noted here. I too was a little put out by the setup on O'Really but the overriding element is that he could care less about this veteran.

A. Freeman April 10, 2008 10:10 am (Pacific time)

"including Oprah, Bill O'Reilly and even Kid Rock, all known as supporters of Veterans' rights" Since when is Bill O'Reilly a supporter of Veterans' rights? He has gone out of his way to deny the problem of homeless veterans in America... the VA says there are currently 200,000 homeless vets, but when John Edwards brought that up around Christmas, O'Reilly ridiculed the number as false and said "there's not many of them out there." It's a moral scandal that so many people who have fought for this country come home to find themselves forgotten. People like Bill O'Reilly who use their public forum to deny the problem make it worse. That's some kind of "supporter."

Cliff April 10, 2008 9:47 am (Pacific time)

The fact of the matter is that Arlington is not large enough to hold everyone who has served in our country in wartime. That is why they have the rules that currently exist. No disrespect intended for the gentleman's service, but I fail to see why the fact that he has lived so long should qualify him for burial there over someone who "only" earned the nation's second highest medal.

TEL April 10, 2008 7:28 am (Pacific time)

"In less than two weeks, he had succeeded in securing an internment for Frank Buckles at Arlington National Cemetery." You get interned when you're sent to jail. Interred is the word you're looking for.

George from PA April 10, 2008 7:22 am (Pacific time)

"Internment" is correct in the second to last paragraph. Interment is burial under ground. Internment is confinement during war.

Jet Piston April 10, 2008 6:35 am (Pacific time)

Nice to see the government do something worth a damn for a change. By the way, it's interment, not internment.

PFC James S. April 10, 2008 1:22 am (Pacific time)

It's at times like this I'm glad the Army has a saying that sums up my personal approval of this, as well as the fact that Mr. Buckles is still going strong at 109 years:


Andy Airriess April 9, 2008 9:03 pm (Pacific time)

Amazing. My mother was 22 when she got out of Los Banos; my father 35, and they both passed over 20 years ago. Keep on, good Mr. Buckles

Anonymous April 9, 2008 4:33 pm (Pacific time)

the british government has no plans for a state funeral for the last of its great war veterans (there are five left). nor should it. several years after the last of the boer war veterans was said to have died, another one was found hale and hearty (trooper ives). he lasted another decade.

Jennifer Campbell April 9, 2008 6:42 am (Pacific time)

The Canadian government has said it doesn't plan to have a state funeral for its last surviving First World War vet (who happens to have moved to the US many years ago and now lives in Spokane Washington.)Officials say the funeral won't happen because the remaining veterans (now just one) turned it down.

Chauncey E. Spencer II April 9, 2008 4:59 am (Pacific time)

it's sad to read things like this when men and women put there life on the line for our county and in this case after almost 100 years you would have to go though same thing like this. Also in this case he would have to go to some one other than the people that have been put in office to protect our rights, but yet he had to go to some out side that office to receive help and make the change! This should be a wake up call for all American's. The son of a American Hero ! Chauncey E. Spencer II is the son of Mrs. Anne Howard Spencer and Mr. Chauncey Edward Spencer The famed American pilot, who along with Mr. Dale L. White, helped influence then Senator Harry S. Truman, to fight for establishing funding for the training of so-called African American pilots at Tuskegee Institute for the Army Air Corp. He is also the Grandson of famed Poet Anne B. Spencer of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The first chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. Was also form at the Edward and Anne Spencer Home in 1917 for the state of Virginia. Chauncey’s background is in Automotive Administration, he is the owner of Spencer Automotive, Inc. Chauncey Spencer is presently 2nd Vice President Cental Region Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Chauncey is on the board of directors of the Detroit Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Inc. He is a member of the speaker’s bureau for the Detroit Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Inc. He is a member of the Anne Spencer Foundation, Inc. a board member of the Linwood-Davison Association, and he is the Chief Operating Officer of the Chauncey Spencer Education Services. In late 2005, Chauncey E. Spencer II organized the Chauncey Spencer Project to advance the publics Understanding of the history of African Americans in aviation. Named after his father, the famed aviator, Mr. Spencer had long been aware of the lack of public awareness of his father’s contributions to aviation and Civil Rights. As he delved deeper, he found that many more African Americans in aviation had also received scant attention in public programs, a concern shared by many scholars and others familiar with the history. Like his father, who refused to complain, he joined with other like-minded individuals and organized the Chauncey Spencer Education Services, LLC.

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