March 15, 2011 will always be a day of great significance because it is the day the United States Of America said farewell to its last surviving Great War Veteran. I attended both Frank Buckles' viewing at Joseph Gawler's Sons funeral parlor in Washington, DC on Sunday, March 13, and his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia yesterday. I would not have missed either for the world. As I told his daughter Susannah, I "had to" be present at this ceremony. In addition to Susannah, I also spoke with family spokesperson David DeJonge (whom I had only conversed with via electronic mail and telephone prior to that point) and West Virginia Senator Jim Manchin.
This flyer was at the information desk:
The screen in the Visitors Center showed a live view of the casket in the Memorial Amphitheater Chapel:
Frank Buckles' casket in the Memorial Amphitheater Chapel ...
Changing of the Old Guard:
This short video clip shows Frank Buckles Lying In Honor. A member of the Old Guard 3rd Infantry Regiment is standing close by.
A Flag flying at half-staff on the Cemetery grounds:
The next group of photographs shows the burial area prior to the arrival of the media, the mourners and the horse-drawn Caisson ...
Three Wreaths were placed by the grave area. The first, sent by the French government has "LAFAYETTE We Are Here!" printed on it, the second sent by Frank Buckles' daughter has "Papa" printed on it and the third has printed "MILITARY ORDER OF WORLD WARS" sent by the organization of the same name.
The temporary grave markers for Frank Buckles and his late wife Audrey:
The grave to the right is the resting place of General John "Black Jack" Pershing, United States Army Commander in World War I. Frank Buckles expressed an interest in being buried near him. You can see the burial area in the background to the left of the pine tree.
A plaque nearby:
Members of Rolling Thunder and the Patriot Guard Riders can be seen approaching ...
The arrival and the beginning of the service ...
The gravestone seen in the next three pictures is for a different Frank ... Frank Dumick, another Great War Veteran ...
Here is a final view of the casket - the last time it could be viewed above ground. To the right you will see a Native American medicine pack burning. It was placed on the casket by a member of the Blackfeet Warrior Society.
This video shows the burial ceremony in various stages. First, the burial area is shown prior to the arrival of the Caisson and the mourners. The funeral parade featuring the casket, seven horses and the Old Guard is next. This is followed by the raising of the American Flag and a reading. Finally the band is seen and heard performing "Taps" and "America The Beautiful".
This was an extremely significant event in American History and I consider myself fortunate that I could be present. All of us in attendance were lucky - it was supposed to rain at 3:00 PM and it did not start raining until after 5:00 PM when the ceremony was over, but I would have stayed out there in the pouring rain if I had to ... suit and all!!
On the drive home, I stopped at a rest area in Maryland. You will note the Flags are in the half-staff position:
I also stopped at a rest area in Delaware. Here the Flags were not flown half-staff (although rest areas may be exempt):
This concludes the photo and video coverage of the day. I will always remember this farewell ceremony just as I will always remember the time I spent with Frank Woodruff Buckles on the 25th day of January back in 2009. Both days will forever have a special place in my heart and I do look forward to visiting his grave in the very near future.
Thank you Corporal Frank Buckles for your service to this nation. It was a profound honor to have met you, it was a profound honor to be present at your viewing and funeral and it was a profound honor to be able to salute you one final time in your presence. I consider myself quite fortunate to have experienced all of the aforementioned. I will never forget you. Goodbye my friend, Michael
I am a(n) researcher and archivist.
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