To put that into perspective, there are 3 million living veterans from World War II, 3 million living veterans from the Korean War, and over 7 million living veterans from the Vietnam War.
On being among the last living “Great War” veterans, Buckles says, “For many years, I would read the figures in The Torch [a veterans magazine] in two columns -- one was the number of 4.7 million-something veterans who served, and the other, which kept going down, was the number of us that were still alive. I knew one day it would come to this."
In World War 1, Buckles served as an ambulance driver in England and France, and when the war ended in 1918 was assigned to a prisoner-of-war escort company charged with returning POWs to Germany.
Later in his life, while he was on business as a civilian in the Philippines in 1941 during World War, II, Buckles was taken prisoner by the Japanese. He was held prisoner in their notoriously harsh conditions for 3 ½ years, where he lost 50 pounds and witnessed executions of fellow prisoners. He was rescued in 1945.
He also added, "[W]hen you start to die... don't."
He said the reason he has lived so long is that,
"I never got in a hurry."
Considering that I was only able to serve for under two months but still have dozens of stories to tell about the experience and the wonderful characters who were around me in basic training, this last remaining World War I veteran must have countless memories that we all would love to know … and probably need to know to lend perspective to our times.
Surely if anything is a national treasure, the oldest living American veteran is.
Frank Buckles, I salute you, and all the veterans who risked their lives -- including the millions who