Capitol Hill Honors For Frank Buckles?

A small kerfuffle has erupted over the proper way to honor Frank Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of World War One, who died late last month:

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wants to honor Frank Buckles — the last surviving World War I veteran until his death on Sunday at age 110 — in a special ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, but not in the Capitol, as suggested by some other lawmakers.

Boehner’s office said the speaker had no plans to allow Buckles’ body to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, as some lawmakers from Buckles’ home state of West Virginia have proposed.

“The speaker intends to ask Secretary [Robert] Gates to allow Mr. Buckles’ family to use the amphitheater at Arlington cemetery for his memorial service,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said today.

“That way, it will be near the tomb of the unknown soldier, who also fell in World War I,” said Steel. Steel would not elaborate on why a Capitol ceremony for Buckles was not in Boehner’s plans.

Buckles died in his hometown of Charles Town, W. Va. He had entered the Army at 16 – and served in England and France during the war as an ambulance driver and later as an escort for returning German prisoners of war. He spent his latter years working to ensure that WWI veterans were remembered for their service.

In response to Buckles’ death, both Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. have introduced resolutions to allow Buckles to lie in honor inside the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, which would allow the public to pay their respects to Buckles by filing past his casket. This is a honor usually reserved for former presidents and distinguished members of Congress. On occasion, exceptions are made for extraordinary unelected average citizens. In 2005, Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks lay in state, and the honor was bestowed on two slain Capitol police officers in 1998. Before that, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was the last unelected person to lay in state in the Rotunda in 1964.

“I gotta say, I am stunned that anyone could object to a ceremony here in the Capitol Rotunda honoring the last World War I veteran. We do ceremonies here all the time — I think next week we are honoring the Australian prime minister. What better way to pay tribute to the last veteran of the great war than to have the United States Congress salute Frank Buckles one last time,” said Vincent Morris, communications director for the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Rockefeller is chairman.

Of course both Rockefeller and Captio are from Buckles’ home state so there’s no small degree of politics involved here. All the same, I don’t necessarily see the harm in having a brief ceremony in the Rotunda, not so much for Buckles as for the generation he represents, who were sent off to fight an unfortunate war for frivolous reasons.

 

FILED UNDER: Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    If Democrats want it, Republicans want the opposite, regardless of what it is. This is the beginning, the end, and the middle of the Republican Party platform. They might as well just change their name to the Bizarro Democrats.

    Your Republican Party: a bunch of witless, unprincipled, spineless, spiteful, illogical, vindictive teenaged girls who would rather destroy our country than see a Democrat improve it.

  2. Congresswoman Capito is a Republican

  3. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    This is the beginning, the end, and the middle of the Republican Party platform.

    I heard this just after the 2008 elections. Funny, it didn’t seem to work out that way.

  4. mantis says:

    Congresswoman Capito is a Republican

    And she’s with a Democrat on this, which means the rest of her party is not. One Republican does not a platform make. If Rockefeller were not also requesting this, do you think Republicans would be opposed?

  5. JD says:

    If Republicans want it, Democrats want the opposite, regardless of what it is. This is the beginning, the end, and the middle of the Democrat Party platform. They might as well just change their name to the Bizarro Republicans.

    Your Democrat Party: a bunch of witless, unprincipled, spineless, spiteful, illogical, vindictive teenaged girls who would rather destroy our country than see a Republican improve it.

  6. Harry Reid agrees with Boehner. He’s a Democrat the last time I checked.

    Like I said, it would be “nice” to do this but its hardly required that a guy who served as a private 70 years ago lie in state at the Capitol.. This isn’t that big a story

  7. An Interested Party says:

    @JD

    If your words were truly the case, Bush would not have gotten his Iraq debacle…

  8. JD says:

    @AIP

    Have you read the first post in this comment thread?

  9. Protocol Babe says:

    Boehner doesn’t want to honor Buckles because Buckles and the sponsoring Senators are Dems. Reid doesn’t want it because WV voted for McCain. Bipartisan politics at its worst. Its not about honoring an old man who served 70 years ago, its about honoring a whole generation and all military. It’s not because of Frank’s personal desire or achievements, its about respecting the last Doughboy–Pershing’s Last Patriot, the last link to that event and generation. This is a Great American Story that could’ve been an uplifting moment for America. Instead, petty jealousies, grudges and apathy threaten this once in a lifetime moment. Protocol allows it. Patriotism demands it. There is even international precedent–France held a full State Funeral led by its President for their last WWl vet. The Queen attended the funeral of Britain’s last WWl vet. Something honorable should happen at the US Capitol. I haven’t much else in the way of honor there in recent times.

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