WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 -
Mr. Speaker, this is a photograph of Frank Buckles. It was taken when he was about 16 years of age. He may have been 15; he may have been 17.
You see, Frank Buckles Jr. joined the United States Army in the great World War I, and he lied to get into the Army so he could serve America in France. They called them doughboys when they went to Europe. He drove an ambulance so he could rescue other doughboys who had been wounded and killed on the battlefield in Flanders and other places in Belgium and France.
After the great World War I was over with, he came back home to the United States, while 114,000 doughboys did not return alive.
Many of them died from flu that they had contracted in France and died in the United States. Four million served, 114,000 died, and Frank Buckles Jr. got to come home. After the war was over with, when the great World War II started, he was in the Philippines.
He was captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war for 3-1/2 years. And shortly before he was to be executed by the Japanese, he was rescued as other prisoners of war, Americans, Filipinos, were rescued.
He spent the remainder of his years in the United States. He drove a tractor in West Virginia until he was 107. And then last year, at the age of 110, Frank Buckles died. Frank Buckles had a mission before he died. It was to see that all who lived and died and served in the great World War I were remembered by this country. You see, he was the last doughboy. He was the last American who died from the great World War I.
This second photograph is a more recent photograph taken when Frank Buckles and I and others were at the D.C. Memorial for World War I veterans. Frank Buckles and others, including myself, Members of the Senate and Members of this House, wanted to see that the D.C. Memorial, which was exclusively to remember the veterans from D.C., great Americans who lived, fought, and died representing our country in the great World War I, to see that this D.C. Memorial was expanded to not only honor the D.C. veterans who served, but all Americans who served in World War I. After all, it is on The National Mall where we have three other great memorials to the four important wars of the last century. You see, America built the Vietnam Memorial, then built the Korean Memorial, and then built the World War II Memorial. But there is no memorial on The National Mall for all Americans who served in the great World War I. And it is time that we do that, that we honor all that served, not just the few, but all of them.
So I’ve introduced legislation along with my friend from Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver, to have legislation that will do three things:
First of all, it will take this memorial that you see in the back, of this photograph, the World War I D.C. Memorial. At the time this photograph was taken, it was in a state of disrepair. It has since been repaired by the National Park Service which oversees the memorial. Take this memorial, honor the D.C. vets and expand it to include and make it the District of Columbia and National World War I Memorial, maybe even give more recognition to the people of D.C. who built the memorial, the schoolchildren who collected money so it could be built many years ago, but make it a memorial for all who served in World War I.
The second thing it would do is also designate the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City as the World War I Museum, which would be in Kansas City, Missouri. You see, it is the museum in the United States that honors and recognizes the history of World War I.
And the third thing was this bill would do is set up a commission so America can commemorate World War I. You see, it’s almost been 100 years since that war started. Not much is being said about World War I. I asked a person not too long ago what he remembers about World War I from history books, and he said, “Isn’t that the war where Snoopy fought the Red Baron?”
Unfortunately, too many Americans know nothing about our history, and it’s time we do something. And so we’re going to have a commission to honor World War I and all who served. This commission is not going to be paid for by the taxpayers. There’s no taxpayer money involved in any of this, but it’ll be set up to make sure that America remembers the 100th anniversary, and that anniversary is coming up on us.
Mr. Speaker, it’s one thing to die for your country. It’s another thing, and the worst casualty of war, to be forgotten by your country.
And that’s just the way it is.