Did you hear about Frank Buckles?
Unfortunately, you aren’t alone.
Buckles was born Feb. 1, 1901 and died Feb. 27. That’s right, he died at age 110.
However, Buckles is remarkable for much more than his age.
At age 16, Buckles joined the United States Army to serve in the war, and his death marked the passing of the last American World War I veteran.
Buckles earned several military honors in his lifetime, including the French Legion of Honor. The day following Buckles’s death, President Barack Obama ordered that the United States flag be flown at half-mast on all government buildings, embassies, and at the White House during Buckles’ interment.
To me, the passing of an American hero, the last of his kind, is significant to our country. Evidently, Obama feels the same. However, in the days following Frank Buckles’ death, though noted in some capacity on many major media outlets, few students took notice.
Buckles generally received only a modest headline on the side of most online news sources, while Christina Aguilera got front-page press for being arrested on public intoxication charges.
Rewind to the Super Bowl. Aguilera was ripped for not being patriotic, or loving her country enough to know the lyrics to the National Anthem. So when a man who loved his country so much that he joined the armed forces at age 16 dies, isn’t that conversely laudable and worthy of attention?
Justin Bieber was in the news that day as well. He was caught holding hands with a girl.
As I said, Buckles was 16 when he joined the army, the same age Bieber was at the time. (Bieber has since turned 17, headline news for some sources.) What was Bieber doing at age 16? According to TMZ.com, getting a haircut.
Not to say that there weren’t bigger news stories that day, but can’t Americans take one day off from Bieber Fever to reflect on the life of an American soldier?
Judson Burns, a third-year in dentistry who is on Individual Ready Reserve for the Army, said he took notice of Buckles’ passing. “I read about it on Yahoo. News media doesn’t have to cover military deaths, but it’s nice to see when the media pays some respect to the soldiers,” Burns said.
Burns also said he personally can’t imagine going into war at 16, especially after having served in Iraq at 22. However, he pointed out that people were probably more adult at a younger age in Buckles’ time.
“He is an automatic icon by default. It’s always sad to hear when a soldier dies. He is something we lost and will never have back,” Burns said.
I admit Senate Bill 5 or the conflict in Libya might be directly affecting more people’s lives right now.
That said, I think a fallen soldier always deserves some acknowledgment and reverence for the sacrifices they make for us. This week I reflected on the life of Frank Buckles: America’s last Doughboy. I hope more do the same.