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World War I veteran from Jefferson County honored at U.S. Capitol

Buckles is last known surviving U.S. veteran of The Great War

Buckles is last known surviving U.S. veteran of The Great War

June 19, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A stickler for healthy living, even life in a prison camp did not dim Frank Woodruff Buckles' conviction for it.

While being held a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II, the 107-year-old Buckles led his fellow prisoners in calisthenics, and even Japanese guards joined in.

Those were among the remarks from U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd as he and others honored Buckles -- a Jefferson County resident and the last known American surviving World War I veteran -- at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.

"I feel honored to represent the veterans of World War I," Buckles said. He took a sip of champagne when a toast was offered.

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Much of the focus on Buckles usually centers on his military experience, but Byrd emphasized that Buckles' life has been extraordinary in many ways, including his career in the steamship business in the 1920s and 1930s that took him to Nazi Germany, where he saw dictator Adolph Hitler during the 1936 Olympics.

Buckles saw track star Jesse Owens win four gold medals, Byrd said in a press release.

Byrd said that would have been more than a lifetime of experiences for most mortals, but not Buckles, who married after World War II and became a West Virginia farmer.

"Maybe his long, productive and happy life is a product of breathing the good, clean West Virginia mountain air," said Byrd, D-W.Va.

Buckles lives at and still runs his Gap View Farm along old W.Va. 9 just west of Charles Town.

Joining Byrd in honoring Buckles in the LBJ Room Wednesday were Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and former U.S. Senator Bob Dole.

Also in attendance were Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., and Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., Rockefeller spokesman Steve Broderick said.

"There were tons of photographers there and all the national media," Byrd spokesman John Bray said.

"It was very well-attended, so well-attended people couldn't move in the room," Broderick said.

Buckles' daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan, also attended the ceremony.

"In a way, he's surprised at all the attention he's received," Buckles Flanagan said of her father.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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