Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

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Mr. Speaker, they went off to war singing George M. Cohan's song, Over there, something to the effect that, Over there, over there, send the word to beware that the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming and we won't be back till it's over, over there. Those were the World War I doughboys, as they were called in the great World War I.

One of those individuals is Frank Buckles. Frank Buckles is an interesting individual. He was born in 1901, February 1, and he was born in Kansas. And when he was 16, the great World War I had already started. And he was at the Kansas State Fair, and he saw a recruiting poster, Uncle Sam Wants You. So he went to a local marine recruiter, wanted to join the United States Army to go fight the war to end all wars over there in Europe. The marines wouldn't take him. You're too small and you are not 18 years of age. And he continued to try to get in to the Marine Corps.

Finally, he decided he would try the United States Army. He went all the way to Oklahoma City. Being only 16 as he said later, I decided to really tell them a whopper and tell them I was 21. The Army recruiter said, Okay, we will sign you up. And he joined the United States Army after vigilantly telling people he was 18 when he was only 16, a volunteer to go fight in that war.

He signed up for the ambulance service, and the reason he signed up for the ambulance service was because he heard that was the quickest way to get to the battlefield to help other young Americans that were already fighting that war to end all wars. And so he went overseas. He served in France. He drove an ambulance. He rescued not only Americans but the other allies that had been wounded and took them back behind enemy lines.

After the war was over with in 1918, having joined in 1917, Frank Buckles continued in Europe until he was discharged, protecting and guarding German prisoners of war. He came back to the United States, and before he was discharged, he was given $143.60 plus a bonus for serving in combat of $60. He came back to America, and of course there were not benefits in those days. There was no VA. You just went back home and started your own life.

In the great World War I, over 4 million Americans served; 117,000 of them died in Europe. Half of those doughboys died from what they obtained, the Spanish flu. Many of them didn't even know it. They got back to America and died from the Spanish flu that they had contacted while serving overseas.

Frank Buckles, being the kind of guy he is, he came back home. He started a new life. He decided to go to sea. He worked on different ships. In 1940, he found himself in the Philippine Islands. And as we all remember from American history, the Philippines were invaded by the Japanese, and there Frank Buckles was captured by the Japanese. And during World War II, he spent 3 1/2 years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Having already served in World War I, he lied about his age so he could get in as a volunteer. Now in World War II, 3 1/2 years of his life stolen from him by our enemies. He served in that prisoner of war camp.

He was finally released when Americans liberated the Philippines, came back to the United States and lived in West Virginia until the age of 102, Mr. Speaker, 102. He worked the farm. You know, he chose probably the occupation of America's past, the hardworking individual that works American soil. And that was Frank Buckles. He worked the soil.

Today, Frank Buckles--and here is his photograph, Mr. Speaker--is 109 years old. It is an honor for me to call Frank Bu