109-Year-Old Frank Buckles: America's Last Living WWI Veteran

Nov 10, 2010
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

When World War I ended on November 11, 1918, 4,734,991 Americans who served in that conflict were alive. Today, only one of those soldiers remains.

Frank Buckles is presented the Patrick Henry Medallion at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo: Washington Post/Getty Images)

His name is Frank Buckles. At 109 years old, he is the last of the American WWI veterans and the oldest veteran in the world.

Buckles said that when he joined the Army, he was "a snappy soldier...all gung-ho."

His military journey began in 1917 when he was 16 years old.

Buckles in 2008 signing an authentic WWI helmet. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

At first, he was rejected by the Marines for being too young. The Navy shooed him away because he was 16 and had flat feet.

Finally, after lying about the whereabouts of his birth certificate, Buckles convinced the Army to enlist him.

When he joined, his recruiter told him "the Ambulance Service was the quickest way to get to France."

Buckles trained in trench casualty retrieval and learned how to cinch a wounded soldier to his back with his belt.

Later, he became an officer's escort in France and joined a transport detail for German prisoners of war.

Buckles never made it to the front, but witnessed the ill-effects of war when he cared for the German prisoners.

He called World War I  a "severe war" and noted that “you wouldn’t see a British or French man who did not have a black band on his arm for relatives who were deceased in the war.”

Among his medals are the WWI Victory Medal and the Veterans of Foreign Wars' Gold Medal of Merit.

Buckles has asked to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Today, the last veteran of WWI lives on his family's cattle farm near Charles Town, West Virginia. When asked about the secret to his longevity, Buckles said:

"The desire to live. To survive."

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