Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Final Salute to Cpl Buckles

Not far from where we live in the northeast Baltimore suburbs is the little community of Pikesville, home to the headquarters for the Maryland State Police.  Their administration building is in a complex of buildings old and new.  One of them was built as a United States Arsenal in 1819 and was a military post and weapons storage site until 1879, when it was turned over the state of Maryland.  The State, needing to find a home for 130 Confederate Civil War veterans, turned it into the Confederate Soldiers Home in 1888. On the site, the old rebels grew their own food and put on their dress grays every June 10 to celebrate something called Confederate Decoration Day.  (I never heard of it, either.)  But when the Depression was at its worst in 1932 and there were only two Johnny Rebs left, they were moved to private homes, where, for who knows how long, they kept hollering "Forget, hell!"  And the old building became State Police Headquarters.

So, the reason I was thinking about old soldiers is that Frank W. Buckles, the last American World War I veteran, passed away not long ago on his farm in West Virginia.  The last known survivor! Close to 5 million Americans served in World War I, our involvement being from 1917 - 1918, and Mr Buckles outlived them all!

 "I knew there'd be only one someday," he said a few years back. "I didn't think it would be me."

"We have lost a living link to an important era in our nation's history," Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said of Mr. Buckles. "But we have also lost a man of quiet dignity who dedicated his final years to ensuring the sacrifices of his fellow doughboys are appropriately commemorated."

You can read history in books, magazines, encyclopedias, and online.  But, just as one picture is worth a thousand words, one original source who saw the original picture is bound to be better than a lot of words written by people who didn't.  I wish I could have talked to Mr Buckles, or to those two age-old Confederate soldiers. 

Nothing like hearing about how things were from someone who was there!

Cpl. Buckles 1917
The obituary in the Washington POST made an excellent point - how many other people, born during the William McKinley administration, lived long enough to have a Facebook page?  When he was born, 110 years ago, had you told his parents that someday, their son would be living in an age when we had a pocket-sized device that was a phone, a portable information source, and a camera all in one, what would they have said? 

Or what if you had told them that Americans would have been to the moon, flown through the sky, sent moving pictures through the air and elected an African-American president? 

Those of you having babies this year - I hope they all live to be 110 and will see the same phenomenal growth in our nation.  I would love to be around in 2121 to hear about it, but go ahead and start without me!

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