Frank Buckles, the last US veteran of World War One and one of only three surviving veterans of that war worldwide, has died at the age of 110. That’s sad, but something less of a surprise than living to 110.
I don’t have too much to say about Buckles. I never met the man, I’ve never seen any interviews with him, and pretty much everything I know about him, I learned by reading his Wikipedia article. But I will say this about the veterans of that war: we need to recognize them better. We have something that is, more or less, a national memorial in, of all places, Kansas City, and that’s fine, but we should have one in DC. There’s efforts afoot to make the DC memorial into the national one, and I’d support that, if we expand and improve it.
Beyond that, we need a better understanding as a people as to what World War One was and why it was the most important event of the 20th century, and arguably one of the most important events in the last thousand years. World War One expanded the use of aeroplanes in combat, expanded the use of radio, was the first major war captured on motion picture film, was the first war moved by the internal combustion engine and was the war that introduced the tank. It was a war that killed so many people the survivors were referred to as “The Lost Generation”.
It also led directly to World War Two. Had the central powers been treated better by the allies, Germany wouldn’t have had some of the problems they had, and it’s unlikely Hitler would have risen to power. Had the war not happened, the Russian Revolution might have been delayed another decade, and we could have been spared Stalin. The war still effects us now, since a lot of the Middle Eastern countries were carved out of what was left of the Ottoman Empire.
So if you drink, raise a glass today to Frank Buckles and the millions of other men who fought and died in that horrible war. Take a moment to remember them, their sacrifice, that war and to hope that nothing like it ever happens again.