Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

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Mr. Speaker, it was 90 years ago this November that World War I was over; the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour, it ended.

   Frank Buckles was in that war and is the last of his generation. Of the 4.7 million Americans that were mobilized during the First World War, Frank Buckles is the very last doughboy.

   His remarkable life began in Bethany, Missouri, where he was born in 1901, during the administration of President McKinley. At the tender age of 16, Buckles lied his way into the United States Army when he enlisted to fight in the First World War. He was rejected by several recruiters, but he was not deterred until he finally found a recruiter that would take him. He joined the United States Army, and he drove an ambulance in Europe during World War I.

   Mr. Buckles served in the First World War, and was held then as a prisoner of war by the Japanese for 3 years during World War II.

   At the incredible age of 107, Frank Buckles has lived through 46 percent of our Nation's history. Today, he resides on the family farm he purchased near Charlestown, West Virginia, purchased after the first war.

   Mr. Buckles is one of the forgotten veterans of a forgotten war. He is the lone survivor of World War I.

   During World War I, nearly 116,000 United States warriors gave their lives for this country. 4.7 million served, and they changed the tide of that stalemate war and ensured victory for the Allies. When the doughboys landed in France, our allies were impressed with their fighting spirit, and their tenacity stunned our enemies. When they returned to the United States, there were no parades or major memorials established in honor of them. They returned to the Roaring '20s, and America didn't want to talk about the war because America had decided to move on. Then the depressions of the 1930's hit, and the service of the veterans became a distant memory. Then World War II came, and America never got around to honoring the World War I vets.

   Today, we have three memorials to our major wars on modern history on the National Mall. They were built in order: Vietnam Memorial, then the Korean Memorial, and then the World War II Memorial. They were built in reverse order. But there is no national memorial, Mr. Speaker, for the World War I veterans. This was the war that was supposed to be the war to end all world wars.

   World War I marked the beginning of the history of modern war. It was the war that brought America into the forefront as a world power. It was the first war to be fought on three continents. And World War I was the first industrialized war with the introduction of major technology in weaponry like machine guns, tanks, artillery guns, and airplanes.

   In the 3-week long Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest U.S. engagement, 18,000 Americans were killed. Approximately 1,000 doughboys a day were killed. Some are still buried in Europe in graves known only by God.

   Many of the servicemembers who survived the tolls of war and came back home to the United States had already contracted a deadly flu virus while they were in France, and many of them died in the United States after the war from that flu.

   World War I should not be forgotten. In World War I there were no photographs taken, and after the war no blockbuster movies were made to tell the story.


   So today, I was honored to be with Frank Buckles at a press conference at the D.C. World War I Memorial on the National Mall.

   Since 1918, the men and women who served in World War I have gone withou