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Frank Buckles' funeral

On Tuesday, March 15, 2011, Frank Woodruff Buckles, America's Last World War I Veteran, was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.  I was in attendance for the event.  I flew American Airlines from Lubbock to Dulles via Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) on Sunday, March 13 arriving at my Marriott hotel at Dulles Airport early Monday morning, March 14 about 1:30 a.m.

On Monday, March 14, I drove into Washington, D.C. to visit the funeral home where Mr. Buckles' coffin lay for guests to see.  There were many family  members there, friends, media, and interested parties in attendance.  As far as I know, I was the only person there from Lubbock, TX and Texas Tech University.  I estimate that over 1,000 persons viewed Mr. Buckles' coffin at ANC on March 15 and several hundred actually attended the funeral later that day.  Dignitaries included President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.  Below are photos from the funeral home and the funeral at ANC.




John McCullough at Marriott Hotel Dulles Airport, Virginia on Monday, March 14, 2011, preparing to travel to Joseph Gawlers' Sons funeral home in Washington, D.C.  I reserved a 4-door sedan from my favorite car rental company, Hertz, and with the Hertz Never-Lost Navigation System I drove from the Marriott to the funeral home with no problems.  I am very glad I took the option for this navigation system:  Virginia and Washington D.C. are a bit more congested than Lubbock and West Texas.  This was actually my third trip to Washington, Dulles airport having flown up there to interview Frank Buckles twice before, in August, 2007 and August, 2008.





Frank Buckles' coffin lay in honor at Joseph Gawler's Sons funeral home in Washington, D.C.  They did a very good job.




This is the rear view of Gawler's Sons funeral home.  Although it was mid-March, the weather in Washington, D.C. was very fair and mild.  Only a light jacket was needed outside although the temperature did drop considerably at night.  A reporter from FOX News Radio came to the rear entrance and interviewed some people on his digital recorder.




Persons at the funeral home came from all over the United States.  These three men knew Frank Buckles well, having visited with him at his home.  They are with the group Lest We Forget, which honors veterans from America's wars.




Two of the men from Lest We Forget hold up a framed collection of photographs about Frank Buckles.




Ken Buckles talks to another visitor at Joseph Gawler's Sons funeral home.  To the right of Ken is his wife.  Behind both of them is the flag-drapped casket of America's last World War I veteran, Mr. Frank Woodruff Buckles.  Ken is Frank's grand-nephew.  When I told Ken my connection to Frank and why I was there for the funeral, I also explained Lubbock's connection to Frank.  The 11th Airborne Division (glider troops and parachutists) liberated Frank's Japanese POW camp in the Philippines in the spring of 1945.  Frank had been held captive by the Japs for 39 months even though he was a civilian.  I told Ken that most certainly many of the gldier pilots who delivered glider troops (glider riders) of the 11th Airborne who liberated Frank's camp were trained at South Plains Army Air Field (SPAAF) in Lubbock, TX during WWII.  SPAAF was the largest advanced glider pilot training base during WWII.  To this Ken loudly and proudly replied, "Well thank you, Lubbock, Texas!"

For more information about SPAAF and glider pilot training during WWII, see the Silent Wings Museum website at www.silentwingsmuseum.com

Silent Wings Museum is located in Lubbock, Texas and is the official National World War II Glider Pilot's Association museum.

For more information about the Glider Pilots of WWII, see their official website at www.ww2gp.org







On Tuesday, March 15, I traveled to Arlinton National Cemetery (ANC) for the funeral of Frank Woodruff Buckles.  This was my first trip to ANC.  I was over-whelmed by the history and solemnity of the cemetery.



The entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.




Frank Nordhorn waits his turn in line to pay his last respects to Frank Woodruff Buckles, America's last World War I veteran.




Frank Woodruff Buckles lies in honor at Arlington National Cemetery.  I waited in line about 40 minutes before entering this hall where his casket lay with honor guard.




Another view of Mr. Buckles' casket with red-white-and-blue wreath.




Senator John Kerry and escort arrive at ANC to view Mr. Buckles' casket.




Susannah Buckles Flanagan arrives with escort.  Susannah is Frank's only child.






At this point, with security increasing, the Army officials moved us south across the street to make way for the President and Vice-President who arrived shortly.  They were at ANC briefly to view Mr. Buckles' coffin but did not stay for the actual funeral.



This photo was taken by another attendee.  Specialist Carr of Pennsylvannia was in charge of security across the street from the rotunda where Mr. Buckles' coffin lay.  We are waiting for dignitaries to arrive.  SPC Carr left a message on my Breedlove CPTP website.  He did a very good job with security.  There were about 150 persons waiting across the street with me.  Notice the 11th Airborne Division tie-clip I am wearning.  I wore this in honor of the glider pilots of the 11th Airborne, many of whom trained and earned the "G-Wings" at SPAAF in Lubbock, TX.  The 11th Airborne Division liberated the captives of the Jap POW Camp in the Philippines in the spring of 1945, one of whom was civilian Frank Woodruff Buckles.  Thus Lubbock and SPAAF have a direct connection to America's Last World War I veteran.--johnmc.



This photo below was taken from across the street.  Mr. Buckles' coffin is loaded onto the horse-drawn hearse.





After the horse-drawn hearse was led away towards Mr. Buckles' plot, we were allowed to walk along the winding street behind it (well behind it) to attend the actual funeral ceremony.






There were hunreds of persons in attendance for the funeral besides the military service personnel.  US Army, Navy, and Air Force officers and enlisted men attended and took part in the ceremony.  An military band played in the distance.






The service is now complete and the US Flag (Old Glory) is carefully removed from the coffin, folded, and presented to Susannah and Mike Flanagan.  An official then asked all the attendees to please give the family a period private mourning by exiting quietly and heading back to the entrance of ANC.  I then drove back to the Marriott Hotel at Dulles Airport.  It was all quite a moving experience and I am very glad I was able to attend.--John W. McCullough, Lubbock, Texas and Texas Tech University.



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