Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
“Over there, over there, send the word, send the word, over there. That the Yanks are coming,
the Yanks are coming, and we won’t be back, ‘till it’s over over there.” These were the words proudly sung by the American Doughboys as they headed “over there” to fight for freedom in the Great World War. Nearly a century later, the final legacy of the American Doughboy is in our hands. How will we write the next pages of the final chapter?
At 109 years old, it is reasonable to assume that there isn’t much left in life to accomplish. For most people that’s probably true. But for Frank Buckles, in his last chapter of life, his story is not quite done.
Frank Woodruff Buckles,is the last American Doughboy. He is a national treasure. I had the honor of meeting Frank as he joined me in Washington, DC to announce the Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act. The bill would refurbish and expand the local WWI Memorial on the National Mall for the soldiers of the District of Columbia. It has been Frank’s driving passion to see that the nearly five million American GIs that fought in the War to End All Wars had a place among the memorials that honor our nation’s heroes.
No taxpayer money will be used to pay for this memorial; but, Congress must authorize the building of it. Frank has become my driving force to see to it that this simple request is rightfully honored, and we, as a nation, recognize our last remaining Doughboy when that time comes. Frank is more a part of our community than probably most of you know.
You see, there is one special teacher at Creekwood Middle School that has brought history to life for our children. A few years ago, Creekwood teacher Jan York heard about Mr. Buckles. She and other teachers at the school took on a project to raise money for a WWI Memorial in Washington, DC.
With slogans reading "Bucks for Buckles" and "Dough for the Doughboys," students sold T-shirts, backpack tags and collected coins to raise money for the WWI Memorial Foundation. Last year, 11 teachers, three students, the principal and a few parents visited Frank Buckles on his farm in West Virginia to present him with a check for $13,553.83.
This project has had a profound impact on me. There are no lobbyist taking on this cause, only a few Members of Congress, our school children and the last remaining doughboy.
I have recently learned that my friend Frank Buckles’ health is deteriorating. His family and friends have asked that when he dies, we pay tribute to the end of a generation by allowing him the honor ofa full military burial at Arlington Cemetery and that his body lie in honor in our nation’s Capitol. I was shocked to learn, that it is going to take an Act of Congress to get this accomplished.
This isn’t just about Frank Buckles. This is about our history, our patriotism, our gratitude and respect for an entire generation – for the last American Doughboy. This is about honoring all 4,734,991 million of them, who have all have died except this one remarkable man. Mr. Buckles still fights for the silent dead so that they will be honored by America.
As we walk down the path of honor on the National Mall, we rightfully pay tribute to all those that sacrificed for our freedom. But as I walked that path on the Mallwith Frank a few years back, I was embarrassed that there wasn’t a place of honor for the doughboys, sailors, aviators and marines of WWI.
We have memorials on the National Mall for three of the four great wars of the last century with tributes to Vietnam, Korea and WWII. But, there is a compelling silence and blissful absence of a WWI memorial for our last doughboy to salute.
As we come to the end of this chapter in history, I hope that we do the honorable thing. I hope that the final legacy of these American heroes is not forgotten and that we do not fail to honor those that have made it possible for us to live in freedom.
Honoring Frank Buckles is our chance to say thank you to the last of a generation. It is the final legacy of those who fought “over there.” America did not treat those that served in WWI well upon their return. As the last lines are written, let’s get it right “over here.”
The Doughboys should not be forgotten – the time is long past to build a memorial on the National Mall. And when the time comes and the bugles sound Taps for the lone survivor, Corporal Frank Buckles of the United States Army should lie in honor in the United States Capitol.
And that’s just the way it is.