Last doughboy’s burial marks end of era

DoD: Donna Miles A soldier with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard,” keeps a constant vigil over the casket of Army Cpl. Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last U.S. World War I veteran, as he laid in repose before his burial Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

By Donna Miles: American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va. — America recognized the end of an era Tuesday as it made a solemn farewell to Army Cpl. Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving U.S. World War I veteran, as he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery here with full military honors.

President Barack Obama paid tribute to Buckles Tuesday afternoon as he lay in repose in the chapel beneath Arlington’s Memorial Amphitheater stage. Buckles died Feb. 27 at age 110.

Obama was the last of a long line of mourners who began filing past his flag-draped casket early Tuesday morning to pay their last respects to Buckles, and a whole generation of combat veterans he came to represent.

The visitors paused in quiet reflection within the stark grandeur of the white-marble chapel. Its most striking adornment is a gold-leaf “Winged Victory” figure the Chinese government presented to President Warren G. Harding when the unknown soldier of World War I was buried at Arlington on Nov. 11, 1921. Tuesday that figure, along with a single soldier from the 3rd Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard,” kept a constant vigil over the last “doughboy” to serve in World War I.

As they streamed from the chapel, the mourners — a mix of families, school groups, veterans, even a Canadian air cadet group — said they were honored to be able to say a final goodbye to a generation of American heroes.

“I felt like it was my duty as an American to come here and give him my respects,” said Ray King, who took time during a family trip here from Houston to pay homage to Buckles. “It’s because of him, and those he served with, that we have the freedoms we have today.”

King’s wife, Marilyn, said she felt privileged to be able to personally honor Buckles and those who served alongside him in World War I. “What we are doing here today is a statement, and to be able to be part of it is just awesome,” she said.